I admit that I consider Valentine's Day to be a "fake holiday". Others may refer to it as a Hallmark holiday. I put it in the same category as Mother's Day, Father's Day, and St. Patrick's Day. It's another non-religious holiday that is celebrated by going out and spending money. On most of these holidays you are supposed to treat a certain person in a special way, but in reality you should always show your appreciation for those you love. My husband and I refrain from going overboard on Valentine's Day because our wedding anniversary is a short three weeks later (March 6th). We consider that to be our real special day.
Despite my concerns about major crowds with a weekend Valentine's Day, my husband surprised me with a 6:00 reservation on Saturday, February 13th at my favorite local Thai restaurant: Sweet Basil. I had my first Thai food experience about five years ago when I spent a lot of time traveling in North Jersey for work. A colleague suggested dinner at a Thai restaurant and I fell in love with the cuisine. It's generally spicier than Chinese and is full of fresh seafood and fresh vegetables. From my experience, the food is never over cooked, salty, or soggy. The veggies are always crisp and fresh. Many Thai ingredients include peanuts, coconuts, and spicy chilis. When I first got into Thai food it was pretty difficult to find it in Delaware. However, in the past few years we've seen several new Thai restaurants outside of Philadelphia. We like Sweet Basil for it's romantic, contemporary atmosphere and the creative menu.
This place isn't necessarily inexpensive, so we'd come for lunch if it wasn't a special occasion. However, every single course is unique and well worth the price.
We each started with soup. I had lemongrass (which was spicy and filled with chunks of tomato, onion, and large shrimp). My soup was had a nice level of spice, but it wasn't so spicy that I couldn't enjoy the individual flavors.
Our next course came from their Asian Tapas menu. I guess every restaurant is jumping on the tapas bandwagon. We normally opt for one of their standard appetizers (like satay chicken), but we wanted to switch it up. We had the tamarind shrimp with chili sauce and the crab roll.
The tamarind shrimp was just okay. It was grilled and although it wasn't technically overcooked, we tasted more char than shrimp. This wasn't helped by the fact that the chili sauce was sweet, not spicy as we expected. But we ate all four shrimp!
The crab roll was basically a big crab spring roll. It had plenty of crab, plus carrots and cabbage. It came with a vinegary dipping sauce. We enjoyed it, but we both felt that we could see the crab, but we couldn't taste it. Then again, we admit that we've never had crab without Old Bay, so maybe we just associate crabmeat with that Maryland seasoning.
I chose Stir Fried Shellfish for my main course. It's a combination of scallops, shrimp, mussels, and squid in a spicy broth with vegetables (peppers and onions) and white rice. It was delicious, especially considering that the squid was tender (not chewy). It was also light, so I was able to enjoy every single bite.
Since the food was so light, I had room for dessert. Regardless of what they offer, I always ask for Coconut Ice Cream with Warm Sticky Rice. I can't explain to you the deliciousness of this dessert. The coconut ice cream is light in texture and topped with chopped peanuts. There's some clear fruit (I don't think it's a lychee, but I'm not sure) that is also placed on top of the ice cream that is sweet and slick and just fits in with the creamy texture. The absolute best part is the warm layer of sweet sticky rice at the bottom of the bowl. I don't like rice pudding, and I didn't think I'd like coconut with rice, but this dessert is so unique and so good. My only complaint is that they were stingy with the rice this time. It's the best part! Just writing about it makes me wish I could make it. Does anyone have a recipe for this?
So that's my recap of my delicious experience at Sweet Basil. If you haven't tried Thai food, I highly recommend it. If you live in the Philadelphia area, I highly recommend Sweet Basil. There are some fantastic restaurants in China Town in the city, but Sweet Basil is pretty good for those of us who are suburbanites.