Saturday, September 5, 2009

Louisville - Basa: Modern Vietnamese

After my undying love for Japanese food (blame the minor in Japanese Studies from William and Mary and the year+ I spent living there) I LOVE Vietnamese food. Though I haven't visited Vietnam, I one day hope to if only for the food. I imagine that all modern Vietnamese food tastes like that of Basa: fresh, light, flavorful. Basa uses the traditional Vietnamese ingredients of mint, Thai basil, seafood and noodles, and puts a new spin on those in both the food and the drinks in modern, bistro setting with Vietnamese flair. The restaurant was very busy on a Friday night and we didn't have reservations. (We heard later that Diane Sawyer took her mother there last weekend after she was given the ABC news anchor position, so maybe that added to the normal Friday night crowd.) Rather than wait 30+ minutes for a table, we decided to have our meal at the full-service bar.

For dinner my husband and I decided to start with an appetizer to share, opting for the Crispy Imperial Rolls ($8). Our waiter (who was also the only bartender on shift) informed us we should wrap the rolls - stuffed with shrimp, pork and mushrooms and fried - with the lettuce and mint served alongside and then dip it in the chili garlic dipping sauce. It was delicious. Though the fried roll was a bit heavy, the mint and lettuce brought a lightness to it.

The dinner menu was a decent size, though as with most good menus there were basically a few fish and seafood dishes, a chicken and steak option each, and a few vegetarian options. Off the regular menu we ordered the fried tofu with sauteed spinach and root vegetables ($15). This was topped by a sweet and salty, peanut-y sauce that was delicious. There were also a few specials, and we decided to try out the red grouper with red rice and Siam choi - basically baby bok choi - served in a light sauce ($29). The two dishes were polar opposites in flavor as the tofu was very in your face strong and the fish was very light and fresh, but both were amazing. We also ordered a side dish of garlic noodles ($4) which was delicious and everything one hopes for in this simple dish.

We also decided to each try a specialty cocktail since they had a few good options, all at $8. I went with the Basa Signature: vodka with aloe vera juice and aloe chunks as garnish. My husband decided to try the Kentucky Iced Tea which had Maker's Mark, chartreuse, ice tea, lemon juice and a mint garnish. Both were delicious and complemented our meal wonderfully.

Basa was definitely a great meal out and I would recommend it to anyone who loves Asian flavors or just trying something new. Though it is not the cheapest of Louisville restaurants, you will certainly get an amazing meal made with wonderful ingredients and it is in a great neighborhood. For a cheaper way to experience this place, you could always try out lunch ($10 entrees, $4 appetizers) which I am sure is just as good.


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