The whole point of a restaurant review is to share the place with the reader. Basil Cafe is worth sharing.
Located at 585 University Ave W., St. Paul, MN 55103 (near the intersection of Dale and University) it is a beautiful, contemporary restaurant with no pretensions. Fantastic food, friendly staff, and parking next to the building, it’s a gigantic success waiting to happen.
You’re greeted immediately, and before you finish getting your chair adjusted there’s a tin-cup of ice water, with a refill bottle, on the table and ready for you to enjoy. That’s a big deal in an era when the staff at most places can’t seem to see you until you make a fuss.
The drink range is all non-alcoholic, but unless you’re on a Lost Weekend bender, that shouldn’t be an issue. With a variety of canned soda (many from the region of the cuisine) and coffee/tea, you won’t go thirsty. I had a mango soda, and besides being beautiful, it was delicious. Amazingly delicious. Like, so good I wanted to bring the soda fountain home with me.
We went right to the appetizers, and got the egg rolls and the fried pork belly with garlic. The egg rolls were top shelf, and worthy of praise. But they paled in comparison to the pork belly. I’m a serious bacon/pork belly kind of guy, and I’ve only had it this good once before at a Cuban restaurant in Florida. Tender, juicy, flavorful with just a bit of heat, I’d order a larger plate of these and skip anything else for dinner. They are truly that good.
Just as the appetizers were finishing, the main course arrived. We both got the Pad Ka Pao. My wife had the shrimp version mild, and I had the beef medium. Both were beautiful to see, and frankly I was a goner when the fried egg still had runny yoke inside. Perfectly prepared, the sauce was light, the beef tender, and the vegetables crisp. Not the sauce that comes in a giant drum, but the kind that tells you the chef cares about flavor.
Desert was also a rave. My wife had the TRI-COLOUR (Tapioca pearls, jackfruit, toddy palm, grass jelly & basil seed with palm sugar & cream) and I had a Thai waffle with ice cream. I am a moron, so I don’t know if there is such a thing as a Thai waffle, but these were produced on a tiny little waffle iron, and had hints of coconut. The ice cream was smooth and just the right temp. Both winners.
Total bill out the door with tip was under $60. That is a top-shelf value for such a great meal.