Set amidst lush greenery, Basil provides an oasis in the city.

Amidst the rows of gardening stores along White Plains, Katipunan, Basil stands out not as a plant, but as a venue for people to unwind, nourish their bodies, and please their palates. Upon entering the restaurant, the relaxing smell of wood and herbs as well as the sound of running water softly greet you. Sprawling tree trunks overhead, a small pond, and lush greenery all around make you forget that you are actually in the middle of the city.

And then there’s the food. The menu carries Thai dishes that Filipinos have grown to know and love, but Basil musters enough courage to experiment with different ingredients. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Using Wagyu for the beef short ribs, a dish that has its origins in northern Thailand makes it deliciously tender and meatier than usual. The sticky sweet meat becomes so addictive when combined with the soft and fluffy jasmine rice. One serving includes three pieces, which at first might not seem like a lot – until you realize that you’ve finish almost a cup of rice and you’re not even done with one rib.

Description: Waguy spicy ribs

Waguy spicy ribs

The Steamed Lapu-lapu is a sight to behold. Placed on an elevated platter, the pink fish is laid in an almost crystal clear broth, garnished with slices of tomatoes and lemons. One feels like royalty when served fish this way. Basil’s version of this dish uses the local lapu-lapu (ulpot). Though fresh, this dish is better off using the usual black lapu-lapu as the ulpot stubbornly refuses to blend with the fresh lemons and tomatoes, even when mixed with the sweet broth.

The duck curry was unfortunately not available when we visited, but the Penang Moo (Creamy Pork Curry) did not disappoint. Though not a faithful rendition, this dish is a good alternative to the usual red or green curry. Be prepared to order an extra serving of rice. The pork is tender and the curry sauce initially gives you a clean milky note that develops into a layer of different flavors – spicy, salty sweet – leaving you no choice but to eat, eat, and eat more rice.

The Tom Yum meets my basic expectations, but today, it is a bit more watered down, with the fish sauce being the most prominent flavor in the mix. For drink, I was happy with the Thai Iced Tea. The tea tastes authentic and is not diluted with too much syrup.

Description: Tom Yum soup

Tom Yum soup

Cap off your meal with the Sticky Rice with Mango. It has such sweet mangoes that perfectly complement the sticky rice. The rice has an interesting, slightly salty note that makes this dessert stand out among its counterparts. Their Buko-Gata Ice Cream is also a winner, featuring a cold scoop of buko ice cream in a sea of cold gata soup, coaxing your taste buds to relish and enjoy this delicious dessert. Have the ice cream alone, drink the soup, or enjoy them together – no matter how you plan to eat it, it’s the perfect ending to a hot, hearty, and flavorful meal. Now you’re relaxed and ready to face the city once more.

Description: Sticky rice with mango and Buko-gata ice cream

Sticky rice with mango and Buko-gata ice cream

Basil is at Katipunan Avenue, White Plains, Quezon City.

Must-tried: Waguy Spicy Ribs ($8.5), Creamy Pork Curry ($7.75), Sticky Rice with Mango ($3), Thai Iced Tea ($2.5), Buko-Gata Ice Cream ($2.5).

Price range: Salads and Appetizers, $5.5 to $7.75; Soups, $7; Seafood, $9 to $18; Curries, $8 to $10; Beef, Pork, and Chicken, $6.5 to $12; Rice and Noodles, $1 to $8; Drinks, $1.5 to $4 per glass; Desserts, $2.5 to $4.

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