I met up with Dickson, my stalwart pho companion, earlier this week to give the newest addition to Chinatown’s ever-revolving dining scene a spin. Basil Leaf, dubbed a Vietnamese restaurant and sports bar, opened about two weeks ago in an unfortunate location. Not unfortunate so much for the ghosts of the failed restaurants past, but for its sight-unseen building, tucked just far enough down 107 Avenue to be missed by most passing by.
Though this was my introduction to any incarnation of the space, it looks like the new operators gutted the place, with stunning results. The dark wood floor, intimate leather banquets, and Cactus Club-esque artichoke lights elevate interior design expectations of Asian restaurants. Moreover, the dish and flatware were surprisingly modern, with beautifully curved tea cups and soup spoons in place of more traditional pieces. Between Basil Leaf and Urban China, the bar for the design of Edmonton’s Asian restaurants has been set. Though Basil Leaf does support a “sports bar” in theory – a high, granite bar encircles a mounted television screen, an area separated from the main dining space by a partition – it seems to be a footnote, and shouldn’t detract would-be diners from visiting.
The menu was fairly standard for a Vietnamese restaurant, stretching several pages with numerous stir-fries, vermicelli bowls and soups. Prices also seemed match those found at similar establishments, though I can only really speak to pho, which is always my dish of choice.
My predictable pho with medium rare beef was $7.75, while Dickson’s usual deluxe pho with all of the fixings rang in at $8.25. The green onion cake starter was $4.50.
As in Paula’s review, the service was borderline too attentive, with the servers at numerous points hovering over our table, and constantly checking to see if we needed a hot water refill for our tea. For some reason, it wasn’t off-putting – perhaps because they appeared to be genuinely interested in our dining experience.
Of course, with food being the focal point of our visit: I liked the green onion cakes well enough, though the batter had not been evenly seasoned. The pho also could have been better – the curved bowl my dish was served in was another plus, but the flavour of the broth was one-note, and could have been enhanced with more aromatics and spices. Dickson and I also agreed that the beef was overdone, becoming tough and unpleasantly chewy too quickly.
Green Onion Cakes
Beef Noodle Soup with Medium Rare Beef
Deluxe Noodle Soup
While Basil Leaf may not become my destination for pho, I would gladly visit them again. Perhaps for dinner when I might be able to take advantage of a booth , and when the lighting will better highlight the space.
10023 107 Avenue