October 2016 update: I did visit there as a customer after a couple of weeks in October 2016. The service was slow and we were the only customers there on a Saturday evening. I ordered the house pho and the food was bland, perhaps they focus on the more health conscious side of things.
DISCLOSURE: I was a food blogger attendee and was invited to sample the food. As always, all opinions are my own.
Basil Garden Pho opened in April 2016 and is a family owned restaurant in East Vancouver. When I saw the exterior from the parking lot, it did not look very appealing. (Sorry!) I immediately thought of the Vietnamese places that have Christmas decorations, the big screen TV with the neon coloured lights. You know what I’m talking about. 😉
When you open the door, you’ll see that it’s a 33 seat, modern, white, bright and spacious space.
Overall, the food is well-prepared – it is not greasy and less on the MSG side. The meats were perfect – crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. They don’t go heavy on the pickled vegetables, which is nice. Who actually finishes those veggies?
As mentioned, since we were invited, they offered items on and off the menu so we had many things to sample. It was a good opportunity to talk to the owner about all things food. They actually boil the bones in the broth for 18 hours to ensure the taste is there. Apparently, many restaurants cheat and use beef bouillon to save time. Oh, those soup cheaters!
We had a huge food challenge to tackle. Here’s what was on the menu:
When I arrived, we got seated immediately and had the option of selecting a drink on the menu. I am a huge fan of fresh avocado smoothie so picked that item. The other options were mango and coconut smoothie. My second drink was the Basil Garden signature drink. I had to try the “house” drink special. Why not? We either go big or go home for food. Obviously, go big!
The avocado smoothie had a good milky consistency. It wasn’t too sweet. I am one of those half sweet order types out there. The Basil Garden signature drink contains basil seeds, chia, and aloe vera juice. The signature drink was prepared very well.
From the appetizers, the top contender is the crispy spring rolls. They were non-greasy on the outside, crispy and the meats were tender. When I go out for chicken wings at Vietnamese places, by default I compare them to Phnom Penh. We all know they’re popular in Vancouver. The Phnom Penh chicken wings are the “wings on steroids” with the crispy fluffy skin, extra MSG and garlic and that lemony dipping sauce. It’s so drool-worthy.
Anyways, back to the garlic butter chicken wings. They put a lime on the side to add the extra zest and it makes a huge difference. The wings are not as crispy as the “wings on steroids” at Phnom Penh but remember, those wings are the holy grail in town. These are good with that extra garlic flavour. It’s like a little brother version of wings in the community.
They served us fresh lotus stem salad and it had lotus stem, cabbage, chicken, prawns, pickled vegetables with a side of fish sauce. I like how they put the fish sauce on the side for the health conscious types so they thought about it. That’s very important since we live in a world where people have different diets and lifestyles. Some people don’t like sauce and enjoy tasting the food as is. I would dip the sauce like no tomorrow. I’m a sauce kind of gal. Bland is boring. 🙂
Now to the mains, my favourite was the special menu item, the satay peanut and beef noodle soup. I asked for the satay to be mild spicy and they were very accommodating. So accomodating to the point where they were concerned if it was too spicy. The staff is super friendly and nice. I enjoyed mixing the satay into the pho noodle and there wasn’t a soup base. I would take out the word “soup” if they decide to have it on the regular menu. It is a heavier dish because of the satay.
The house special pho soup base is sweet and less on the MSG, which is a plus. I liked how the chicken curry served a toasted French baguette on the side where you can dip the bread into the curry. Who doesn’t like fresh French bread? It’s simply the best.
Unfortunately, we had one (food try) fail. We didn’t try the pork bone rice noodle soup since we were too full after the satay peanut and beef noodle soup dish. And we did not want to waste food. It just shows you that the food is good after they served the sixth sample dish. We really tried, trust me!
Another item they wanted us try on the special menu was the lemongrass dry ribs. They were crispy on the outside and meaty juicy on the inside. The lemongrass flavour is on the lighter side and had the right amount of salt. The lemongrass and grilled pork bowl on rice is your classic Vietnamese dish.
The mango and green tea cheesecake are outsourced, like most Asian places since it’s quite time-consuming to prepare so it makes sense. Can you imagine making 10+ three kinds of bean drink during rush hour and layering the different ingredients into a cup?!
Plus, most people go to Vietnamese places to get pho and are too full for dessert at the end. The cheesecake servings are bite sized so I didn’t post on here. It’s about five bites at the very most. The dessert options needs refining but I’m sure Basil Garden will figure it out.
Overall, I enjoyed the items on the special menu and soon it’ll be on the regular menu for you out there! It is a convenient place to grab a causal lunch or dinner. Nothing special.