Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Basil Canteen Review - 1489 Folsom St SF CA

Basil Canteen - is getting the thai street food formula right in a phenom space within the nightclub corridor of Soma, SF.   The restaurant and lounge sits in a big windowed NYC-esque room:  a former brewery with tons of exposed brick as well as architectural iron work, smack on the fascinating corner of Folsom and 11th Street. For a large, open room you can actually hear yourself talk, and the music (nice downtempo stuff) and the tone of others talking.  Its a pleasant audio mix, which is a surprising in a "loft" space.   Its a great place to drink, snack, catch up with people or just people watch.   The staff is usually friendly and attentive and food itself is vibrant, flavorful and well, decadent.  

One of my favorite apps is captured (poorly) below: The Roti is so crispy and sweetly crunchy - I've never had better Roti - but its boardering on pastry-like.  You know what?  I'm ok with that.  Its melt and crunch in your mouth delicious, especially when complimentd by the sweet and spicy green curry replete w tender tiny bits of eggplant and topped with a big basil leaf.  Those white dots that look like marshmallows in picture below, are the eggplant pieces (left - square bowl).   Its amazing curry.  In the middle of the plate below are bits of bbq'd steak, with a nice marinade I might add.  I didnt ask them what it was, but the beef was lean/tender yet really almost herby taste bc of the spicing. The beef looked like the sad third wheel on this plate though, ha.  Wow, is that the best vegetarian appetizer ever?  Meaning it would be if you took out the sad beef.  Or go the other way, and add big pieces of rib-eye with a wee bit bigger bowl of thai green chili to have a heartier meal.  I would order that every time.  

Here is what I had tonight.

Two Snacks:
1) Daily Special ~ Fried pork and crab meatball

2) Kang kiow wan roti
(shown to the left - this stuff is heavently, my poor cell phone pix dont do it any justice.  

1 Rice plate
Kao mok gai
‘all natural’ chicken braised in rice with tumeric and spices

The chicken has not as good as past but the sauce was amazing - a mint and vinegar or something.  Hand to identify ingredients,  and I would have drank it like a small freshly squeezed orange juice if given the chance.  

Canteen is a great place to share dishes and most are substantial enough  that four people can eat and have a sizable portion.  Mostly everything is good on the menu, and clearly I recommend the curry.  The noodles are all great: I think the kee mao talay dish which features manila clams is an awesome seafood noodle execution.  I'll include the pic from their website to show the manila clam kee mao.  The balance of veggies, starch and protein is wonderful and unusual a bit too.  Its surprising in a good way.  It you like seafood, pasta or green leafy vegetables you could eat this and love it.  Even if you never had thai food before in your life.    

The Fried Rice is ok, I wish it had more flavor actually.  But the pickled jalapeƱos on the table are a fine addition to the rice to give it spice. One of the first dishes I tried, and one I love the concept on is this: 

kao moo daeng
crispy house-cured pork belly, roast pork, and egg served with star anise gravy

The roast pork is colored outside with what looks like red #5 - just like chinese char siu.  It reminds me of my childhood favorite foods re-interpreted.  The two types of pork plus sauce and egg (plus rice) is just brilliant.  Its off the savory richter scale, but its a small portion and worth the experience.  I guess I'll have to go again and take better pics this time of this unique dish.  Hopefully this review moves people to go to this great resto, please do - I want it to stay open and thrive!  Check out the big communal table that is in the front.  Also in my pic at the top of post and many on their website.  If you click on the header to the post it should take you to the Basil Canteen website, if not just "google" it.  

Non-traditional but still delicious thai food in a very contemporary yet comfortable setting.  
Check it out, its worth the trip.

Basil Canteen gets 4 "Musubis" ("stars" out of 5) Basil Canteen on Urbanspoon

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