Vietnamese cuisine is once again surging in the Valley, with several new restaurants opening in underserved areas to satisfy the public’s lust for the tangy, spicy ecstasy of basil, lemongrass and fish sauce. One prominent addition: this midtown diner at the intersection of Central Avenue and McDowell Road.
Set in a short-order style diner that was previously a Thai Hut, Guacamole Grill and Denny’s, the restaurant is owned by three first-generation émigrés who ran a similar eatery in Florida. The diner seating has been converted to bar seating, with a full arsenal of adult beverages. On a weekday night, the place is bustling.
Pho is well-represented, as are other common but slightly lesser-known staples – like bun, a rice vermicelli dish typically served with a small bowl of nuoc cham, the fish sauce vinaigrette you dump over the noodles in a baptism of sweet funkiness. Seeing a few other intriguing items on the menu – e.g. mi ap chao (plump, pan-seared egg noodles) – but nothing too intriguing, we opt for the beef lemongrass bun. Pretty orthodox. Good, not great, with muted spice and char on the beef. On the plus side, the complimentary fried shrimp chips are very tasty and give Basilic a vague but novel wisp of fine dining.
The Early Verdict
It’s not often you can order a serviceable Riesling with Vietnamese, so that’s fun, but our first run with Basilic didn’t augur repeat visits. Where’s the adventure?