Thai Basil has been a fave of the Pacific Place crowds since it opened at the turn of the century – 1999, that is. But 22 years is aeons in Hong Kong’s fickle dining scene, especially during the past two very chaotic years. The restaurant has reliably presented us with a “safe” version of traditional Thai cuisine, often eschewing extreme spice for enhanced sweetness in many of the dishes.
Thai Basil has moved to the first floor of the shopping mall in Admiralty, with a brighter, more modern look featuring light wood decor, pops of royal Thai blue and an open kitchen. There’s a swanky-looking four-sided bar taking centre stage towards the front of the space.
The restaurant has also incorporated eco-friendly elements into its design as well as its day-to-day operations, as backed by Swire Properties’ (Pacific Place is part of the property developer’s portfolio) Green Kitchen Initiative, which is focused on sustainability. Thai Basil has adopted energy-efficient cooking appliances, light fixtures and a kitchen exhaust system alongside water-saving faucets and dishwashers. They have also reserved a space for food-waste separation in the restaurant and recycle all glass and plastic materials.
In line with the new look, Thai Basil has launched a number of tempting new dishes, and we tucked into several. Notably, several of the highlights are plant based.
We started things off with a duo of comforting soups, both charmingly served Western style in oversized mugs. The classic sour and spicy tom yum clam soup ($98) has been given a modern upgrade with the addition of plump Manila clams and plenty of oyster mushrooms, which accentuate the flavour of the shellfish.
Moving to the richer soup, the hot-and-sour rock lobster soup ($98) is akin to a tangy, spicy, creamy lobster bisque, again with the addition of oyster mushrooms, making for a great textural contrast with the sweet lobster meat.
Another liquid number that we enjoyed alongside our meal was the Dark Green mocktail ($45). This is a surprisingly addicitive drink showcasing a range of tastes – a slightly bitter, herbal flavour from the Thai green tea, sourness from the lime and a distinct candy-like sweetness from the Hainan lemon. The fragrance of this drink took us back to childhood, when we loved inhaling the scent of a newly opened bag of gummy bears!
The deep-fried prawn spring roll ($128) is a standout small plate, with a big, meaty whole prawn encased in each golden brown, perfectly crisp cylinder. Thai sausage is also added to the savoury filling mix.
We weren’t so enamoured with the banana blossom salad ($118), though we did enjoy the unique inclusion of dill. We found the banana blossom strips to be too fibrous and tough.
The grilled eggplant salad ($98) would be our choice on the salad front. It also includes a scattering of dill, lifting the dish. The smoky slow-grilled aubergine has soft, yielding flesh in a sweet-and-sour dressing and is accented with punchy kaffir lime. The crunchy green apple batons add a nice textural contrast.
The slow-cooked Canada beef short rib with red curry ($288) is a monster of a main. The beef is cooked to the point of being fork-tender, and the curry provides a slow-burning sweetness that’s ideal scooped over a bowl of steamed rice. The celery root and kale provide a good balance to the richness of the meat, also standing up to the robust sauce.
Our favourite main, however – and the top dish of the meal as a whole – was the roasted whole cauliflower in green curry ($138). You won’t miss your meat with this one! The large head of smoky cauliflower is entirely infused with the flavour of the aromatic green curry sauce; first it’s basted with the sauce and slow-roasted for 2.5 hours, then after roasting, it’s bathed in the curry. Again, note the mountain of mushrooms atop the caulifower, adding heft and interesting texture to the dish. Divine!
Moving on to the carbs portion of the menu, the vegetarian fried organic brown rice ($118) was a surprise hit. The rice itself resembles barley, with every grain distinct and separate. Diced carrot and green beans add crunch, while fried onion strips provide sweetness. It’s crowned with a block of spice-dusted soft tofu, giving a big boost of protein.
The chargrilled Canada scallop laksa ($158) is a diluted, commercial-friendly version of this popular Southeast Asian noodle soup. Coconut milk is the most prominent flavour in Thai Basil’s laksa version. The scallops themselves were succulent and well cooked, and we liked that two types of noodles are used – thin rice vermicelli and thick Hokkien-style noodles, made with wheat flour and egg.
Unlike most Thai restaurants, which might offer coconut ice cream and/or mango sticky rice and call it a day, Thai Basil has a pretty impressive dessert selection. We recommend the caramelised pineapple ($88) – pineapple just tastes so much better when it’s grilled! – served with a topping of toasted meringue that tastes like marshmallow, sticky, nutty granola and a scoop of caramel-honeycomb ice cream.
If you’re a sucker for the flavour of coconut (we are), go for the coconut trio ($88); this is a whole coconut filled with layers of flavour and texture – silky panna cotta made with coconut flesh, refreshing coconut-water pudding, coconut sorbet and strips of toasted coconut.
Thai Basil has always been a solid choice for Thai cuisine, but with the menu’s contemporary new space and expanded menu, there are more reasons than ever to keep returning for another two decades. In particular, we like the array of delicious plant-based menu options on offer, and all the dishes are extremely generous in portion and easy on the wallet. We took away about half our feast to eat later on at home (there’s no food wastage at Foodie), and it ended up feeding us for another two meals! Now, that’s great value for great food.
Shop 112, 1/F, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, 2537 4682
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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