Basil Thai Cooking

May 25, 2009
Basil's chicken with garlic, cashews and onions

Basil's chicken with garlic, cashews and onions

Few restaurant neighborhoods in the San Gabriel Valley are more depressing than the stretch of Huntington connecting Monrovia and Arcadia. You name the soulless chain, and it’s here, from Macaroni Grill to the Olive Garden. So we’re grateful to our friend Sherri (Vroman’s book buyer and avid cook) for turning us on to Basil Thai, a rare family-owned café in the heart of chainland.

Not only is Basil a friendly family operation (husband Poki does the cooking, wife Nina serves, and their teenage son helps out sometimes), but it’s a great value, which is why it’s our recession-friendly pick this week. Many regulars return for the lunch buffet at least weekly. A mere $6.95, it includes a soup, spring rolls, two chicken dishes, several vegetable dishes and two kinds of rice. The offerings get bare if you arrive after 12:30, but just say the word and Poki will whip up a fresh replacement for an empty buffet dish.

While the buffet is the bargain to beat, we usually order from the menu, which is still a great deal; most entrees average $7.95, and appetizers are big enough to share. Poki’s cooking is several notches above the suburban strip-mall standard — vegetables are crisp and fresh, flavors are skillfully balanced, and chiles are used for flavor, not just to make your face sweat. Try the tom yum (spicy-sour) soup with shrimp, the stir-fried chicken with cashews and onion, the yum pla muek (a vibrant salad of fresh greens, grilled squid, lime and chile) and any of the rice noodle dishes.

As for the setting, it’s strip-mall stylish in a minimalist, late-’90s way, with concrete floors, plywood cut into angled geometric shapes, bare wood tables and vaguely Eurotrashy music on the stereo. To drink are the usual suspects: Thai iced tea, Singha beer, and a couple of wines; you can bring your own for a $6 corkage.

Basil Thai Cooking, 411 E. Huntington Dr., Arcadia, 626.447.8845. L Mon.-Fri., D Mon.-Sat. Thai. Beer & wine. MC, V. $

5 Responses for “Basil Thai Cooking”

  1. How does this compare to local fav, President Thai on Rosemead Bl?

  2. John says:

    Hey not so fast.. Have you tried that Olive Garden? I for one am a fan. Than again, I tend to gravitate toward “never-ending” bowls of just about anything.

  3. colleen says:

    Cafe Observer…. I haven’t been to President Thai in ages, so you’re inspiring me to go back! We are Saladang regulars, and my general impression comparing Basil Thai to Saladang is that Basil Thai’s dishes are a little less heavy on the sauce.

  4. Lisa says:

    Hey Colleen: What’s your fave Saladang dish? And do you prefer Saladang over Song? (By the way, this is the coolest web site!)

  5. colleen says:

    Thanks, Lisa! To answer your questions, I prefer Saladang when I’m looking for comfort food, but Song is better with a group when you can try lots of dishes, plus sit outside on a warm evening. I’m pretty boring at Saladang, because I am addicted to the yellow curry with chicken and typically must have that, with brown rice. Also like the Tom Kha soup and spinach and duck salad. It’s not amazing or creative stuff — just make-happy food.



Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena