There, Oh Basil! is an exception, surrounded by such familiar franchises as Pizza Pizza, Mr. Sub, Extreme Pita and Starbucks. But Nguyen’s mix of Vietnamese, Thai and unique dishes (more later about its “Fusion Rolls” and so-called “Silly Noodles”) stand distinctly apart from the more generic offerings next door. - Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
Tonight for dinner my wife and I decided to investigate a suburban plaza, of all places, to see if the reviews on Oh Basil! (1910 St. Laurent Boulevard, Ottawa) by Peter Hum of the Ottawa Citizen and on Urbanspoon.com were correct.
We arrived at 4:50 P.M. to the traditionally suburban Elmvale Shopping Centre which is a strip mall at St. Laurent Boulevard & Smyth Road. From the front of the restaurant - sandwiched between a Pizza Pizza and a Starbucks - I was expecting a traditional asian style take out restaurant found in a food court. I looked through the front window to an empty restaurant which gave me a little pause. I looked at my wife with a concerned face that nobody was in there dining. My wife replied it was still early and she was willing to give it a try.
We entered and were pleasantly surprised by the clean modern decor. Nicely tiled floors, well painted walls with Asian artwork. Even the estimated fifteen tables the settings were pleasantly done with the napkin intricately folded around a spoon and fork on a nice looking placemat.
We were signalled by a young Asian lady behind the counter to have a seat anywhere we would like. We chose a table near the front and sat down.
The server finished up two take out orders and came over to drop off the menues. She then retreated back to the bar area to ring up another take out order. During our meal the take out service was frequent and fast with what appeared to be phoned in orders.
We perused the menu to see what there was to eat and discussed an appetizer as well. Once we decided we half looked over at the server who came over with her notepad.
The Order: Crispy
Sesame Beef (Deep fried beef sautéed with caramelized sesame soy), Pad Thai(Stir-fried thin
rice noodle with eggs, tofu, peanuts,
bean sprouts and chef’s sauce with Shrimp) and 2 Autumn Rolls (Crispy spring roll wrapped up as a fresh roll, carrots, onions, mushrooms & mixed vegetables.).
Our appetizer, the Autumn Rolls, came quick. The rice paper wrap was filled with diced lettuce, onions and other vegetables inside with the peanut sauce on the side. It was an interesting take on the normal Asian style Spring Roll. I enjoyed the spring roll but the sauce needs some caution. The peanut sauce on the first couple of tastings is quite tasty but then there is a mild spicey taste to it that just kind of hits your tongue with a zing. The zing isn't terrible but kind of sneaks up on you pleasantly.
About ten minutes later the rest of our meal arrived by our friendly server.
My wife enjoyed the Pad Thai which she confirmed was better than the T.K.'s Pad Thai she had in 2009. The shrimp looked fresh yet decently cooked and the rest of the noodles look quite consistant.
My Crispy Sesame Beef was an interesting dish with excellent presentation along with the patterned plate it was served on. The Jasmin rice came with diced carrots and lettuce as well as pieces of stir fried beef and peppers. The beef was smothered in the sesame soy sauce that provided yet another zing for tongue to figure out. This was a little spicy but not overbearing and tasted much different from the Autumn Rolls. The beef and the rice mixed together quite well to form an interesting taste.
One interesting observation about this Asian restaurant is the lack of chopsticks normally found at other Asian restaurants on Somerset Street West in Ottawa's Chinatown or even Pho Xe Lua in Thornhill. Oh Basil! provides a fork and spoon at each place setting as opposed to the usual chopsticks at other Asian restaurants. I suppose you could ask for chopsticks if you really wanted them. But the entire time we were there it was a mostly white North American clientele visiting for either take out or dine in. Thus, the utlitity of only placing regular North American cutlery on the tables.
The washrooms were some of the modern yet cleanest I had ever seen for an Asian restaurant and would even top a recently renovated McDonald's washroom. The stainless steel faucet on the sink was even artistic with the top cut away so you could see the water stream across before dropping over the waterfall edge into the sink.
Overall, we found Oh Basil! to be an interesting Asian restaurant located in a run of the mill suburban strip mall. The food was a little pricey but the modern decor in the restaurant and the upgraded washrooms are probably the reasons for the higher prices. The service was excellent yet unobtrusive as the server came observed the progress of our meal from afar and didn't really interupt at all until absolutely necessary. The good service coupled with fresh excellent quality food at this moden clean family run location will ensure we will definately return in the future.
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