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