Sunday, 7 April 2013

Basil House (Thai Vietnamese Restaurant)

461 High St, Preston, VIC 3072

Basil House on Urbanspoon
While this place advertises and serves both Thai and Vietnamese food, it really does much better with it's Vietnamese and Chinese offerings than its rather woeful Thai dishes (with one exception). It's a family restaurant with average dishes, with some highlights that are reliable. It serves above average slightly westernised Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese dishes. The clientale here is mostly non-Asian.

The Place
This is a big basic dining hall with not much atmosphere. However, it is a very family friendly space and set out so that tables can be moved to accommodate a range of family structures and sizes. Being a family restaurant, it can get pretty noisy in there sometimes. It's a relatively clean restaurant. Parking here is generally great a the Preston market car park (except market days).

Things to do Nearby: Preston Market and High Street Shops. The Townhall is across the road for some special events, and the library is just behind the townhall.

The Food
Ok, so this is not the best and most authentic Southeast Asian offering but it is also less greasy, relatively tasty and comes with great portion sizes. As I keep saying, the Thai offerings are not that great with the exception of the Tom Kha (coconut milk based hot and sour soup). The real highlights are in the following dishes;

Beef rice noodles of various combinations are relatively tasty and while they do not rate as highly as the ones in Richmond or Footscray, they are not bad for a northern suburb restaurant, with tasty soup and generous servings of bean shoots.

Broken rice is very basic here but still nice and reliable.

Dry rice noodles here of various combinations are also good and comparable to the ones in Richmond. Also, because they do quite good spring rolls, having them with the noodles is a good combination.

Ok, I am not a fan of any of their chicken dishes here because they tend to use par-boiled chicken thigh strips and just add the sauce. As a result, it's just not tasty, from my perspective. I am also not a huge fan of their various Chinese dishes and other non-Vietnamese dishes.

The Service
The service here is almost unfailingly courteous. 8 out of 10 times, they do well and are quite personable and really friendly. When it gets really busy and they are understaffed - it all begins to unravel, and dishes can be mistimed. Otherwise, they usually make an effort to welcome all diners and check on them. This is why I tend to keep going back - because they are friendly on top of the various dishes that I know they do well.

When I feel like particular dishes that I know they do well, I am like to go to Basil House... it's not exactly my locale but it is easier than struggling with traffic and parking with Richmond. However, I know what I like and it's limited to the dishes I have already mentioned.

Cultural Moment
There are times when I feel like good old westernised Asian dishes that I know are reliable. However, that doesn't mean sub-standard food. It still has to be tasty and appeal to the tastebuds in their own way. More importantly, it should come with good service.

For a restaurant such as this, I can't expect the best of authentic cuisine from Thailand or Vietnam - that's not what I am here for and who am I trying to kid? I don't think the restaurant is trying to do that either. Therefore, I am doing this review accordingly to the clientale it is aimed at and the type of food it produces. If I were to rate it for authenticity - this would have been a terrible review. However, if I am looking for acceptable westernise fare - it's perfectly alright and this suits many people. The trick is to know yourself, know what you are in the mood for, and know a restaurant for it's style of food. I hope this blog helps people to do that for themselves... and not go to different places with the most skewed of expectations. For example, this is a Vietnamese run restaurant, know that and then you can decide whether to stick to Vietnamese dishes or take a punt of the other cuisines offered here.

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