La Basil (Thai), San Diego
My wife and I tried La Basil on Thursday night. If you've read this post (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
)then you know that I've been looking for good Thai for a while. La Basil and Thai Village were the two places most recently recommended; Cathy wrote about it on Kirk's blog (http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2...); read her review.
We started with the #1 fried spring rolls ($5) and the coconut-milk based soup (#9 on the list). The spring rolls were good but not as good as those at Thien Thanh. The soup was great; the coconut was not overpowering but added a delicious creamyness to the rich broth. The mushrooms and tofu went well with the vegetables and seasonings; we had the vegetarian option. It was the best dish of the night.
Next, my wife overruled my idea of beef larb, and picked the Som Tam (green papaya) salad. The flavors were rather muted; the spice level was low as she had requested, but I would have liked more fish sauce and shrimp paste. It was good, but I've made better at home.
Our main courses were, in two words, too sweet. Pad thai had tender shrimp, cooked just right, and al dente noodles, but any flavors in the mix were overpowered by sugar.
Our server had recommended the fried fish and I had picked #43 deep fried fish with chili sauce. Tamarind, garlic, chile, basil and lemon grass sounded good, but they didn't mention "tons of sugar." The fish may have been good, but the unbalanced sweetness of the sauce did not work for me. I would prefer too sour or too salty or too much MSG; those seem to dilute out with plenty of rice. But rice won't cut through sugar. Perhaps it was a bad night.
We had the coconut ice cream for desert, as ripe mangos were not available for the sticky rice dish. It was quite good and I happily ate it all.
We may come back for the lovely decor (including a fish tank with real coral, anemones and clown fish), good service and good soups, but I hope there are better dishes on the menu. I may need to ask for "hot" rather than "medium"; the blond hair always gives me away. I will try the Larb, which Cathy recommended.
Has anyone been to Thai Village in Mission Beach, or Kariya in Pacific Beach? Those are the other two Thai restaurants I want to try.
We've only been to Thai Village once and it was O.K. I'm really into Thai food though and am in the process of exhausting every Thai food lead I find in San Diego.
We had a green curry with avocado and the panang. Not bad. But, I'm still looking for something to match the really good Thai in L.A. and other locales I know.
I wish you luck, but you may need to drive up to LA if you want to experience the best. We had one meal at Kariya in PB and I remember enjoying the items we ordered; ed from yuma also liked the whole fish at that place. However, I don't think it was spectacular or super authentic.
Have you tried Asia Cafe for Laotian food? It is quite similar to northeastern Thai regional cuisine, I'm told.
Also, someone said that Karinya has changed hands since I lived in PB. So I don't know if the dishes that I used to like there (papaya salad, whole fish) are still being done as well as previously. Much of the menu used to be pick a meat, pick which combo of veggies and sauce you want stir fried with it, and those dishes were OK, but certainly not special.
The only time I went to Asia Cafe, it was closed. It pays to find out the days and hours they open ahead of time.
At any rate, Thai Nakorn up in Koreatown, L.A. was great the times we've been there.
More locally, my favorite and regular spot to visit is Thai Garden in Oceanside. Lotus Thai in Carlsbad does a few things brilliantly: Fresh Rolls and Satay are excellent there and compare to the best I've had anywhere.