Hello fellow humans who eat food (which is most of you I guess), I’m going to be covering Thai today!
[UPDATE] a reader has astutely pointed out that Holy Basil isn’t 100% Thai – it’s technically a Thai/Laos fusion. The dishes are Thai while the spices and seasoning influences from Laos play a dominant role in the food. For categorisation purposes however, I’ll call it Thai as it is still essentially that. Thanks folks!
Restaurant: Holy Basil
Number of Visits: 5
Date Visited With Photos: 12/01/2012
Date Last Visited: July 2012
Address: Shark Hotel, 127 Liverpool St Sydney NSW 2000
Specialisation: Curries, Sweets (dessert+drinks)
Good for: first/Nth dates, groups, dinner, spice lovers, strong & rich flavours
Not good for: alfresco dining, quiet dining, people who like it mild
Go-to dish: fried ice cream
Pretty much everyone I know have been here, so most of this will seem familiar.
I’m pretty well acquainted with this restaurant, with 5 visits under my belt. Now I usually don’t go to a place more than once when I’m being deliberate about my choice of restaurant but most of the time friends simply decide “let’s eat at Holy Basil”, to which I responded “ok cool”. And thus the story of this particular January visit blossomed.
Being inside Shark Hotel (which is a bar) means that the place is LOUD. Some might like it, some might not. It’s a very ‘busy’ kind of place. And sometimes literally – if you come during peak hours expect to wait at least a good quarter to half hour to get seats! It’s Thai cuisine though, and I’m used to the general hustle and bustle of Thai restaurants in general – it’d be somewhat weird to go through a Thai fine dining experience (which I will soon do!)
Having said this, service is still surprisingly fast. Perhaps it’s simply because Thai doesn’t take that long to cook. I’m not complaining that’s for sure. Just another reason why Thai is one of my favourite cuisines!
Fish Cake, spring roll, chicken wing, and curry puff
A fairly standard starter. If you don’t end up getting at least one of the four morsels as entrée you’re probably not doing it right in a Thai restaurant.
The curry puff is very soft and essentially melts in your mouth. While I might really love this effect in other foods (e.g. sashimi) it might have been a wee bit too soft for my liking here. Most people think it’s forgivable, but curry does actually need a bit of texture for it to work. This one might have tipped the line the other way for me. Still, potato mash isn’t too bad (if that’s how I think of it) 😛
The fish cake is AWESOME. Spicy, firm, and cuts apart nicely. It’s a go-to entree if you like your spicy faux fish. No more needs to be said of this one!
I don’t have much memory of the chicken wing, so that’s probably either a good thing in the sense that “it didn’t offend any of my senses” or that it was generally unremarkable. I’ll re-evaluate again if I go in the future.
I’m usually fairly mellow about spring rolls. None I’ve ever had have especially wowed me. Either I’ve been going to all the wrong places or that they’re just not my thing. Still, this one was plenty crispy, with a wholesome filling that admittedly did leave me wanting for just another one. Alas, only one morsel!
The dish that needs no introduction – Pad Thai (chicken). Now I don’t prescribe that you need to be some sort of food connoisseur in order to read this blog BUT – if you haven’t had Pad Thai before, tear your eyes from the screen and go out and GET YOU SOME.
Most of the time, you can’t screw Pad Thai up. When you do it’s usually because you took leftovers, left it overnight in tupperware and heated it up using a microwave in the morning which essentially results in super soft and flabby noodles with a very blandish flavour. Or a soggy mess, depending on how you like to call it.
Luckily (or rather expectedly) Basil’s Pad Thai did my taste buds proud. Noodles were soft but at the same time firm (how’s that for a contradictory description). The chicken was well cooked and seasoned and most importantly the fish sauce was done in an exacting proportion allowing the individual elements of the dish (the carbs + protein) to take on their own flavour, supplemented by the sauce. That said, I’ve had better Pad Thai – but you’d be a tough critic to dislike the Pad Thai here.
Caramelised beef jerky
This was different, or so I thought at first. But then I realised this is the same kind of beef you get in Thai beef salads except with just the beef (and….salad on the side…errrr). Not having tried it this way I was curious. The result can be summed up in one sentence: if you already like beef jerky then you ought to order this dish. Vegetables notwithstanding. It was ever only slightly difficult to chew (jerky duh) but manageable for dinner table manners, and rich in flavour. They really let that marinade set in!
Satay chicken skewers
YUM. How can anyone not like satay chicken? Well actually I knew a few friends. They aren’t my friends anymore….LOLJKS
(or am I)
I love satay! I don’t eat it often because it’s one of the unhealthier sauces but why oh why does the relationship Tastiness ∝ Unhealthiness hold true so often! Ah well, doesn’t hurt to have a skewer or two every now and then!
I love satay, I love chicken. If you love both, this should be standard.
GANG PANANG (Panang Curry)
A dry, rich and thick curry made up of small amount of coconut milk, sweet basil, kaffir lime leaves and red chillies cooked with tender cuts of meat, vegetables or seafood.
Delicious. Just delicious. One of Basil’s specialties is curry and this is their savoury go-to dish for sure.
Well, you might prefer their green curry instead but they’re ALL good.
Rich is the word to describe it. There’s no other way. Thick, rich, full of flavour. This is the kind of curry you feel guilty eating EACH SPOONFUL of. Yet, at the same time you CANNOT stop because your mouth yearns for more.
You’re doing it right when you make something that feels so unhealthy so irresistible. If you’re even a slight fan of curry this dish is yours for the taking. Well, for $10-$17 depending on the ingredient choice (veggies all the way to combination).
Oh and I should give a mention to the veggies – they’ve not been boiled to soggy bits but are rather crispy and bursty as ever. Everything about the curry is great!
Fried ice cream
Ahhhhh, what most people know Holy Basil for. Its one and only fried ice cream. Now before you say that other places also make it let me clarify – it’s the only one that makes it with this kind of pastry.
So, about that pastry…
Crisp, sugary, even succulent you might say. As much as that can be applied to a dessert food anyway.
The ice cream itself, classic vanilla – might just have been ordinary vanilla by itself but something magical happens when it’s paired with the pastry.
Some complain its too sweet BUT if you know you have a sweet tooth, this may well be one of the best fried ice creams you’ll ever taste.
This is what most people come to Basil for, it’s what has most people coming back.
What are you doing? Go get out and go there now!
I give Holy Basil a grand total of eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10