Basil Garden Pho has been open just 4 months but the family has been in the restaurant business since the 90's. The unassuming exterior opens into a bright, clean, modern, newly renovated space close to Renfrew Skytrain Station just a couple blocks down the street.
Weekday lunch is usually so busy that they are not able to take reservations, although larger groups could try an 11.30am or 11.45am reservation. Evenings and weekends are calmer, presumably because the nearby college and commercial buildings are less populated.
DISCLOSURE: I was there for a complimentary tasting so. We got a chance to try some of their popular dishes, some "special menu" items, and some test kitchen items.
At the moment the "special menu" is basically available when the owner Philip is there to cook it but in maybe a month or less the menu will be updated and hopefully those items won't be do elusive.
They are also short on desserts at the moment and have experimented with various offerings but low demand for dessert has made it tricky to balance freshness with cost effectiveness. Looks like they'll settle on outsourced Japanese cheesecake in the near future.
Overall I found the food tasty and well-prepared. Fried chicken was juicy on the inside. Deep fried items were not oily-tasting. Even the baguette for dipping chicken curry was toasty warm, and that's after the three of us were done taking pictures.
There's an emphasis on preparing their own food such as beef broth from boiling bones for 18 hours, versus shortcutting with beef bouillon.
They have accommodated gluten-free dining before but it's best to call ahead as many things may be marinated and basically only the owner will handle special requests.
Garlic Butter Chicken Wings ($12.50 for 9 wings)
- Pretty crispy on the outside though not crunchy crispy. Has a lovely aroma of garlic bread and a bit of lime juice on them is recommended.
- A normal order is 9 wings plus some fresh veggies on the side. If you will definitely not eat the greens, ask to hold them so they don't get thrown out later.
Lotus Stem Salad ($14 full order, $8 half order) Lotus stems, shredded cabbage, shredded chicken, prawns, herbs, pickled carrots and daikon, crushed peanuts, fried shallots and house vinaigrette.
- Fish sauce vinaigrette served on the side. Recommend you try the salad without it first.
- I found the salad overall sweet and refreshing and didn't need any dressing. Overall a very tasty dish.
- Very nicely done with the meat not dry and tough.
- Lemongrass flavour was pretty mild--intentional, apparently, through the use of fresh lemongrass. To have a stronger lemongrass flavour would have required a paste, which would have made the ribs not dry at all.
- I thought it was very salty but was outvoted 2-1.
- Curry has some spicy-heat to it but not too much.
- Very strong lemongrass flavour. Curry looks smooth but it is actually quite grainy/coarse with bits of stuff. Also, potatoes are hiding at the bottom, so stir!
Satay Peanut & Beef Noodle Soup (special menu)
- An interesting combination of satay sauce and pho. You can definitely smell the delicious, rich satay sauce though the taste is of course diluted once mixed into your noodles.
- Unlike a regular soupy pho, a bowl of this feels a much heavier meal due to thicker soup-sauce. It be initially deceptive until you stir to mix it, whereupon you may, like I did, find a virtual cake of noodles hiding at the bottom.
- Careful about the spicy heat of the satay sauce and ask about it if you're not good with hot.
- Maybe 2/3rd ice? Hard to tell.
- Tastes like freshly squeezed all right, which is good, but at $4.25 it's kinda painful to be honest. Try one of their other drinks to get more satisfaction for your money -- smoothies or signature drink.
- Look out for the possibly upcoming Mango Smoothie. I didn't try it but the person in our party who did loved the use of orange in it. It'll probably weigh in at around $4 to $5, which is going to be way more satisfying than this their freshly squeezed orange juice.
Japanese Cheesecake (Mango or Green Tea)
- Really decent and the wedges are quite small--probably a good thing since the very reasonable prices here for mains ($10 for any pho of large size) likely means you've had a filling meal already.
- Pricing on the cheesecake was not yet available. Look for it on the updated menu coming soon or try asking for it. Not made in-house so they won't be scrambling to assemble one for you.
Tasty food well prepared. Mains generally at a budget price. Nice clean, bright, space lends a good ambiance. Friendly staff who approach you right away when you enter.