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Jun 21, 2010 12:36 PM

Basil in YYC - Best Vietnamese resto in the city (review)

My wife and I decided to try out Basil in the NE on Saturday night after watching Toy Story 3 in Sunridge (as an aside, that is an amazing movie).

We've been big fans of a lot of Vietnamese restaurants in town, including Saigon Star (what a gem that one is), Bolsa, Pho So 1, Pho Hoang, Quynh, Pho Binh Minh and Co Do. As Vancouver transplants, we've always been impressed with the overall high quality and standards of the Vietnamese restaurants in Calgary, it seems that virtually every one we go to is good-to-great (with the exception of Pho Huong Viet which sucks, La Cochinchine which used to be good but slid waaay downhill, and the horrid Oriental Phoenix).

I was immediately excited when I heard that Basil was opened by the original owners of Pho Dau Bo in Forest Lawn; I had only tried that place once and it was fairly recent; I wasn't overly impressed but I have heard the legends of how good it used to be.

Basil is incredibly new and clean inside, with a feeling that is reminiscent of a lot of good restaurants in Hong Kong. We ordered a number of dishes, some of which we got as takeout as well.

The spring rolls were A+, nice and crispy and not greasy at all. The chicken summer salad rolls are out of this world, probably the best I've had in the city - the chicken is nicely grilled (as opposed to other places which simply boil slices of chicken breast before making the roll) and they add a whole leaf of basil in the roll which is a nice touch.

My wife's grilled salmon wraps were reported as being outstanding - this dish is a highlight at Quynh (and really the only highlight to us, the pho is lousy there and we're not big on bun) and several other Vietnamese places (including Saigon Star, but we have yet to try it there) - usually it has grilled la lot beef or shrimp paste and charbroiled pork, but this was a great healthier alternative and the rice paper wraps were of the proper quality, not too wet or dry. Lots of fresh cucumber, carrots, vermicelli, and basil to go with it.

I had the special pho (of course) and it was incredible. The broth was grease-less and had an intense beef flavour, with hints of ginger and a tiny bit of sweetness as well. The well done beef was of a great quality as were all of the other cuts. The pho was not overly salty or MSG-laden either which is always a plus.

I also had the sauteed beef cubes with onion as leftovers for lunch, this dish wasn't nearly as impressive but was inoffensive and fine for what it was. A restaurant in Vancouver (Happy Vietnam) used to do a great version of this with a great black pepper sauce, but sadly that resto has been gone for a long time and I have yet to find a Vietnamese restaurant that can do it well.

All in all, Basil is well worth the trek for those living in the South, the service is speedy and pleasant and the food is of an incredibly high quality all around. Best in show!

Oriental Phoenix Restaurant
2493 27 Ave NE, Calgary, AB T2E, CA

Pho Dau Bo
4909 17 Ave SE #110, Calgary, AB T2A, CA

Pho Binh Minh
4710 17 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2A 0V1, CA

Basil Ultimate Pho & Fine Vietnamese Cuisine
2770 32 Ave NE #10, Calgary, AB T1Y 5S5, CA

La Cochinchine
3220 17 Ave SW #130, Calgary, AB T3E 0B3, CA

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  1. You might be interested to know that the people who own/run this place used to own Pho Dau Bo (in Forest Lawn beside Noodle World). Basil is definitely one of the best vietnamese places for Pho (as the Pho taste exactly like how Pho Dau Bo used to make it). If you like Basil's pho I recommend you trying out Pho Xuan and see how you like it. It's definitely not the cleanest place but the pho is good. There is one dish my friend raves about every time he goes to Basil and I have to say it's pretty good (It's like the one my father makes at home), it's called Bo Kho (Beef stew).

    Pho Dau Bo
    4909 17 Ave SE #110, Calgary, AB T2A, CA

    Pho Xuan Restaurant
    920 36 St NE #128, Calgary, AB T2A 6L8, CA

    9 Replies
    1. re: cn1822

      You're lucky to have a dad that can make that for you!!! I will definitely try it out next time. I did mention in my review that it was the previous owners of Pho Dau Bo.

      I will check out Pho Xuan sometime, I have heard good things. Really like most things pho is subjective, I happen to love pho in many different forms but the one at Basil tastes authentic and clean at the same time. Saigon Star is a really underrated (ignored?) place though, the food there is outstanding!

      Pho Dau Bo
      4909 17 Ave SE #110, Calgary, AB T2A, CA

      Pho Xuan Restaurant
      920 36 St NE #128, Calgary, AB T2A 6L8, CA

      1. re: dknight

        Opps my bad, you did say it. Well... that's embarrassing. Anyways, pho really is subjective but like you said there is an 'authentic' taste to Pho Dau Bo/Basil and I can tell you it's pretty true. There is a Pho place that's really famous in Vietnam called Pho Pasteur and I must say that Pho Dau Bo/Basil is almost as good.

        I suggest you try Bun Bo Hue (spicy Hue style beef noodle soup) at Song Huongif you haven't already. It's a very popular Viet soup dish right behind pho in my opinion. If you want a rice dish (which can also be ordered with noodles) try Com Hen (rice with sauteed baby clams).

        Song Huong Vietnamese Restaurant
        1704 61 St SE #4, Calgary, AB T2A 4V5, CA

        1. re: cn1822

          Does Song Huong have any relation to the restaurant of the same name in Vancouver (the one with the famous Bo 7 Mon)? Crossing my fingers that this is so, as they also served various Hue specialties such as Bun Bo Hue, glutinous dumplings, etc..

          1. re: Fid

            You lucky dog you. Yes it is. It's the same as the one in Vancouver, so if you want Banh Bot Loc (gluttonous rice dumplings with shrimp and random stuff stuffed inside) this would be the place.

          2. re: cn1822

            S'all good cn :) Thanks for the heads up on Song Huong, sounds like it's in Forest Lawn? Bit out of the way, but then again so is Basil so I'll try to make it out there. I have tried Bun Bo Hue before in Vancouver I think but didn't know that it's a Viet fave!

            The Vietnamese restos in this city strike me as being of a pretty high quality on average, especially compared to most other North American cities which are very hit or miss for Viet food.

            1. re: dknight

              Yup, we're totally spoiled for good Vietnamese food. I still haven't found a good place in the LA/OC area where my parents live.

              1. re: Shazam

                There is one place I always go when I'm down in California in the Santa Anna/Westminster area. Btw.. if you didn't know, Santa Anna area is where all the Vietnamese people are, so if you're looking for Vietnamese food.. I suggest you look there. If i remember the place I go to a lot I'll reply back again (the name eludes me right now).

                1. re: cn1822

                  Yes, it's also where all the Korean people like me are. I haven't found a really good place there. The Pho broth is always bland. Maybe that's just how they like it there.

              2. re: dknight

                It's across from Elliston park, in the same building as the 7-Eleven. And yes, the Viet food in Calgary is pretty darn good.

        2. We are Pho Dau Bo (PDB) regular, so after hearing good things about Basil, we have to try right?
          And we did this evening. The place is fancier than PDB but I find PDB cozier (I am a sucker for restaurants with concrete flooring).

          Unlike PDB, the default free drink is water here. In PDB you get tea for free which is how it should be in any real asian restaurants. But at least the glass which holds the water is very nice and ergonomic. And I have to say the water is chilled to the right was very refreshing.

          Anyways, we ordered the salad shrimp roll, special pho and rice with pork chop.
          -The shrimp roll was great just like old PDB (although a bit more expensive).
          -The pho has pretty good soup but it was not hot enough. There is only one portion and it is not fully loaded like in PDB. It is maybe about 75% of the large bowl at PDB.
          The condiment is just okay (bean sprout is 80% fresh, basil is 60% fresh, red chili is 100% fresh, and instead of lime I got a 100% fresh cut of lemon).
          -The rice with porkchop is utterly disappointing. Porkchop is thin and dry. Fish sauce is not balance (too fishy) and the rice is just regular asian rice (not the broken rice type). Good thing the fried eggs that come with it were perfectly cooked. Well even in PDB, rice is not that great, but the Noodle World next door has great rice dishes.

          All in all, we are disappointed with Basil. It is still better than most other Vietnamese restaurants, but it is a notch below PDB in terms of taste and value. We will stick with PDB.

          Pho Dau Bo
          4909 17 Ave SE #110, Calgary, AB T2A, CA

          2 Replies
          1. re: jojok

            LEMON with Pho sounds like sacrilege- how did it taste?

            1. re: John Manzo

              Well I wouldn't say sacrilege...but it is not as good as lime.

          2. We hit up Basil on Canada Day for lunch and I have to say I'm pretty impressed. I always go for the Sate soup at every place to compare apples to apples. Basil's sate was very, very good, on par with Pho Dau Bo I'd say. Sometimes I find PDB sate a little too spicy (and I do like spicy) and Basil's is slightly less which for me was just about perfect. The complex flavors in the soup was good. We also had their shrimp salad rolls which were very fresh and not at all chewy like some places can be. The other dish we had was a seafood curry on rice which tasted good but not outstanding.

            Next time I will try the non sate soups to see how well their broth is. The other nice thing about the place is the clean open kitchen, makes a little change from the usual asian places.

            Pho Dau Bo
            4909 17 Ave SE #110, Calgary, AB T2A, CA