The market for Thai food is so crowded and so competitive that there is enormous pressure for restaurants to reinvent themselves, to adapt their dishes, to modernise, to innovate, to borrow from elsewhere and do something wildly different. Everyone seems to have a concept. Amid all the new-fangled adventures in Thai food, it can be easy to forget what makes Thai food so popular and so satisfying in the first place: those intense, clear-cut flavours.
Basil, in the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, presents a glittering array of these Thai favourites – it’s not over-the-top in terms of innovation but nor is there a single false note.
Among the appetisers, the soft-shelled crab (main image), or poo nim clook nga thord (B390), sets the bar high early on. Served with sesame seeds and tamarind sauce, there’s the full gamut of salty, spicy and sweet, encapsulating in one mouthful why people the world over can’t get enough of Thai food.
The chef’s recommendations include the grilled scallops in coconut milk, or tom kha hoy shell yang (B400). Normally the best seafood dishes go easy on seasoning to retain the seafood flavour, but the coconut milk is mild enough that it doesn’t dominate but still introduces a delicate aftertaste.
Tom yum gai is essentially a spicy chicken soup (B290 or B540) but when you throw in the mushrooms, lemongrass, a stack of Thai herbs and more than a pinch of spice, it is elevated way beyond the realms of comfort food. Soup might seem like the most basic aspect of any restaurant’s menu but it is, as with all the familiar dishes at Basil, right on the money.
There’s also a cracking yellow curry with snowfish, or gaeng garee pla hima (B460 or B660), again served in coconut milk but without veering all the way to a massaman flavour. Along with the soft-shell crab, it’s the stand-out.
Leave room for dessert, though, because, if anything, this is where Basil becomes a bit more adventurous – it’s impossible to go past the mango sticky rice pudding, or khao niew mamuang (B290), but the crepe bai toey (B280) – that’s pandan crepes with shredded sweet coconut and ice cream – is also gorgeous.
In the end, the food at Basil just makes sense – it just works, in a way that appears almost effortless, which may be the mark of its indisputable quality.
1F Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, 250 Sukhumvit | 02-649-8366
basilbangkok.com | Sun-Fri noon-2.30pm, daily 6pm-10.30pm