Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lime & Basil, Chapel Hill


Lime & Basil is a vietnamese restaurant on the venerable Franklin Street. The name is very evocative of the freshness and subtle flavor that these two ingredients bring to any dish they get to be a part of. It came very highly recommended by Aparna who had a girls night out a couple of weeks back while I was slugging it out south of the equator. Lime & Basil is Veg/Vegan aware - ie. they are aware of the fact that a soup with chicken stock is not vegetarian and red curry with tofu isn't "good karma" if there is the small matter of fish sauce in it. All dishes are clearly marked in the menu and the waitresses seemed very aware of our preferences(at least ours did).

We started off with the special summer rolls featuring a beautifully transparent rice paper roll, seasonal greens, vermicelli noodles and fresh veggies all wrapped around a delightfully crispy stick that I can't quite put a finger served with salty/sweet peanut sauce. What I do know is, I'll order it every time I visit this restaurant. The rolls are huge and a plate of two is good enough for two.

Both Aparna and I weren't super hungry and looking at the size of the dishes, we did what we usually do - share the main course. We went with the lemongrass "chicken". Now, I'm usually not a fan of dishes that substitute a meat with a soy/gluten based concoction. 9 times out of 10, the texture is wrong, the flavor is missing and it is just too damn chewy. Not so here, this was definitely amongst the better executed meat substitutes. The flavor seeped thru, it was not so chewy and it was definitely cooked right - not fried to death. We ordered it served on a bed of vermicelli noodles which make a nice accompaniment. The restaurant substitutes the regular fish sauce with a pretty unremarkable soy based sauce. It really didn't take anything away though. In spite of my natural instincts, I'll find it hard to order something different the next time - and there will be many "next time"s.

There is nothing much in the name of desserts. The bubble tea I hear is worth trying but a sweet tapioca based tea just didn't tickle me enough to try.

Lime & Basil is one of those joints that pops up when the dreaded question - "so .. where shall we eat?" - pops up and everyone draws a blank and the movie starts in an hour. The food is excellent at a very affordable price point. While it's a bit thin on variety, it offers unique and superbly executed dishes.

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