The menu at Basil Thai Kitchen at Paragon Orchard is designed by Thailand’s Iron Chef Chumpol Jangprai with more than 20 years of experience under his belt. He showcases the trinity of flavors in Thai cuisine, sweet, sour and spicy. Basil acts as a highlight in many of the dishes, giving the restaurant its name.
They are operated under the same parent company as ThaiExpress, which I haven’t visited in years, but I remember liking their soft shell crab rice with sweet-spicy sauce.
There are 2 main differences between ThaiExpress and Basil Thai Kitchen:
1. Many of the dishes at Basil use fresh herbs imported from Thailand, giving the dishes a cleaner, lighter touch.
2. While Basil does serve “Thai Food Hits” (TFH) like green curry ($10.90) and tom yum seafood ($8.90), they also dish out rare provincial dishes from North and South of Thailand.
The TFH dishes are not bad, but I think it will be a waste to come here and eat them; and I don’t find them very interesting. The laab gai ($8.90), or basil minced chicken tossed in fresh lime juice, is wickedly spicy. The other common favorite, Khai Jiao ($8.90), or fried prawn omelette, is tossed into hot oil, as in deep-frying, and so it may be a little oily.
Besides the TFH, some dishes show a modern Thai interpretation like the basil chicken wings ($8.90), which are marinated well; if you suckle on the bones long enough, like I did, there is a faint aroma of basil in the juices.
After the TFH, and modern Thai dishes, there are the provincial dishes. The Massaman chicken curry ($13.90), which comes with crispy roti, goes all the way back to 18th century when the consort of King Rama II came up with it.
It’s Persian-inspired, so it is presented stunningly in a tajine. It comprises of 13 ingredients including star anise, thyme and galangal, and the spice blend sits overnight to improve the flavors. The chicken thigh is then simmered in the curry for 20 minutes before serving.
The curry is sweeter and more pungent than usual, which is nice, but I prefer the Chinese curry chicken which is richer and spicier.
My favorite dish, the dish I’d return, is the simple tao khua ($9.90) from southern Thailand. It can be accurately called a Thai salad; it includes rice vermicelli, crisp fried prawns, shredded chicken breast, and raw vegetables. It comes with two homemade dressings, a very sweet one and a spicy one, for you to adjust to your liking. It’s refreshing and light—cleansing.
The other dish that I like, tom yum chicken soup noodle ($10.90), is not like the usual tom yum soup; it’s more like fish sauce that is made spicy with chilli flakes and sour from the lime. This, we are assured by a Thai, is the authentic way of how they eat it in Thailand.
I highly recommend the desserts. Although they are by no means perfect, no artificial coloring is used in the two desserts and they are made fresh daily. The red ruby ($5.90) is not crunchy and gelatinous enough for me, but OMG the coconut cream is so rich and thick, so fragrant.
The green thingamajig in lod chong ($5.90), like chendol without gula melaka, is made daily and so soft and slurp-worthy. The coconut cream, however, is lighter than red ruby’s. I like the coconut cream from red ruby, and the green whatchamacallit in lod chong; if only they could be combined into one.
One major selling point, beside the garden-themed decor, is the affordability of the food. You can get a main dish at less than $10 at a restaurant. Basically, Basil serves homely, simple Thai food, good for families and students.
Basil Thai Kitchen
290 Orchard Road, #B1-45/46 Paragon, Singapore 238859
T: +65 6836 8417
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.