In the past year, I must have ignored Thai Basil in Collingswood at least two dozen times.
Usually I pass it on the way to another restaurant, or I just wander by while strolling around, enjoying the evening. Aside from a momentary glance in the window, I had never really given much thought to stopping in.
There’s probably a good reason for that. I’m not a huge fan of Asian cuisine, so when my girlfriend and I are hungry and searching for a place to pop in for a quick bite, the Asian options around Collingswood aren’t typically on our radar.
Then there’s the location; the entrance to Thai Basil is in this strange cubbyhole that it shares with Fusion Bay. A few doors down sits Chow’s Chinese and Japanese, bearing the huge, yellow sign of your standard, run-of-the-mill Chinese take-out.
Maybe, on some subliminal level, I wrote Thai Basil off as some substandard take-out joint, given its location and surroundings. Perhaps I’ve been so overwhelmed with options that land more squarely in my wheelhouse that I pushed Thai Basil onto the back burner, assuming I’d eventually get around to it when I was feeling particularly bored.
Whatever reason I had for neglecting Thai Basil, I was doing myself one hell of a disservice.
I’ll go right ahead and say it: Thai Basil is great. There’s a lot to like about its eclectic blend of Asian fusion cuisine. It scores major points in the ambience department, sporting one of the most elegant atmospheres along Haddon Ave. The soft, delicate lighting and cozy, wooden color schemes provide an excellent aura for date night.
The food speaks volumes as well. Presentation is important at Thai Basil, an underappreciated quality that always takes great food up a notch—not that the food at Thai Basil needs much help tasting great; it’s pretty damn good all on its own. Take the kung hom pa appetizer: three jumbo shrimp, speared with a stick and wrapped in dainty egg noodles before taking a fryer bath, are a crunchy bite of fun, especially dipped in the sweet duck sauce that accompanies them.
My favorite dish was the bowl of semi-spicy Thai green curry, creamy and rich, and textured with bites of bamboo shoots, bell pepper and green bean. The curry hits just the right notes of spice while keeping its underlying sweetness, an excellent choice for a meal as the weather turns cold in the coming weeks.
Thai Basil has a great lunch option as well. A three-course meal, consisting of soup, appetizer and entrée, for around $9 ($10.50 for take out). I especially enjoyed the chicken tom kha soup, a coconut broth cut with lime juice to create a gorgeous blend of sweet and not-quite-sour soup. The drunken noodles are also a delicious choice, if a bit oily, as well as the wonton tod krob dumplings—over-fried but filled with a tasty chicken and shrimp mousse.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Thai Basil is a fun, tasty experience that’s sure to appeal to the safe and exotic eater alike. One particular dish, The Wild Side, which contains sautéed alligator meat in a homemade curry sauce, is on my dining to-do list. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to cross it off.
- Speaking of Fusion Bay, rumor has it they’ll be introducing a dim sum menu in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that.
- Two Haddon Avenue restaurants are on the horizon: Akira, a Japanese hibachi restaurant, and Indiya, an Indian restaurant filling Raymond’s old spot that officially opens Tuesday. Coincidentally, both restaurants have Voorhees roots.
- Collingswood Fall Restaurant Week (October 14-19) is approaching! I’ll be previewing the event in this spot two weeks from now.
- Follow me on twitter: @davevaliante