Yesterday my plan to eat at Thai Aree with friends was vetoed. One of our friends is running in the Chicago Marathon and was planning to run 20 miles today and he wanted to be home early. They suggested Green Basil Thai in Vernon Hills which I have avoided since it opened. Eddie from Thai Aree told me that GBT was owned by the same people who owned Tasty Thai, also in Vernon Hills. Since Tasty Thai is very mediocre, I didn't have any desire to spend more money at the upscale GBT.
GBT is located in a mall, which is also home to Cafe Pyrenees, across the street from Hawthorne Mall at Milwaukee and Rt 60. The restaurant is VERY handsome, not what we expected. On the chic taupe walls were sepia toned, picture lit, Thai photographs. There also is a very nice granite topped bar. Attractive and comfortable dark wood chairs with white table cloths, covered with white butcher paper, and napkins. The extremely friendly and very competant servers wear handsome sage green tunics over black trousers. Even the restrooms were beautifully done; same taupe walls, granite vanity top holding an above the counter bowl, brushed nickel fixtures. You would never guess that you were in a Chicago area Thai restaurant, suburban no less. The only thing missing from the picture were the patrons dressed only in black.
Now on to the food. The food was Rick Bayless style Thai. Rack of lamb, fanned duck breast, beef tenderloin, etc. Beautiful presentations on oversize very stylish white plates/platters. The dish artfully plated in the center surrounded by a pool of sauce. Very high quality ingredients with skillful preparation. There was definately a lack of heat, but I don't find that unusual in the majority of Thai places. Too be honest, since we had not been there before and also I wasn't sure about the heat tolerance of our companions, I didn't push them upon ordering. We ordered a bunch of dishes to eat family style, but I think that is not what most of the American patrons do there. In fact they had a prix fixe menu, but it limits your options and it didn't seem like much of a savings.
The two girls, our youngest and our friends daughter, ordered garden rolls (spring rolls) and a couple orders of chicken satay. They were good, but not something I would order. These dishes were in the starters section and most of the selections didn't thrill me. We started with selections from the salad section of the menu.
The adults had green papaya salad topped with a couple of shrimp, clean and bright flavors, very good except for the lack of heat. Crying Tiger featured very high quality beef, ala Thai Aree, with some slice cukes and tomatoes. Salmon salad was also really good and presented beautifully.
First entree was four pan seared scallops in Thai chili sauce plated inside a 'fence' of asparagus. Nicely grilled rack of lamb with asparagus in green curry. The rosy pink, good quality lamb had a very tasty char on the outside. Tender and moist duck breast and a leg in a special 'house' curry, seemed like Penang to us, with pineapple and cherry tomatoes. All were very good. The entrees were from maybe $15 to low twenties.
Our friends split a dessert of Thai custard over sweet sticky rice surrounded by a very sweet strawberry sauce (think slightly thinned jam). My wife and I took a bite, but it didn't think it was worth the calories. But our friends almost licked the plate clean. The girls also had vanilla ice cream, served in a martini glass.
The weak point is a very small and unmemorable wine list but we got around that with a very modest $10 corkage fee. Since our friend in training was abstaining, I only brought one bottle. The 2000 Neyers 'Hudson Vineyard' Syrah with its beautiful fruit, spice, and Rhone-like funkiness went great with most of the dishes.
While this isn't an everyday, storefront Thai restaurant it is very nice change of pace. I wouldn't really compare it with other Thai restaurants; it is faired to compare it with a more upscale fusion restaurant. We lingered for about 2 and 1/2 hours, talking after dinner in the beautiful surroundings, with out being rushed. We felt like we could linger since, unfortunately, there were mostly empty tables. So two kiddie cocktails, three apps, three salads, three entrees, one dessert, and a $10 corkage fee came to $122. Twice as much as we would have spent at Thai Aree (for less food), but not a fair comparison. The pricing was very fair for the ingredient quality, amenities, and outstanding service. A nice option for north suburban diners.
Green Basil Thai Restaurant
River Tree Court Shopping Center
701 N. Milwaukee