Discerning Diner: Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine serves up dishes with side of hospitality
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Discerning Diner

Discerning Diner: Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine serves up dishes with side of hospitality

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I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to return to some semblance of normalcy where we can sit down inside a restaurant and enjoy a nice meal.

You might say that I’m burnt out on takeout and eagerly anticipated the day when Cumberland County entered the “green phase.” That day arrived last week, and my husband and I decided to celebrate with Thai food at Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine in the Windsor Park Shopping Center in Lower Allen Township.

When we arrived, a masked employee bustled by us to deliver food to a car after a brief greeting. We joined one other person at the front of the restaurant who was ordering takeout before another masked employee emerged from the kitchen to seat us.

Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine is a BYOB, so we brought a few bottles of Lagunita’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin to go with our dinner selections. An employee appeared soon after we settled into our chairs near the window to bring us a free order of cute, basil leaf-shaped shrimp chips to enjoy with our beers as we waited.

Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine takes over the spot that used to house Twee Thai. The décor is different now, with interesting wallpaper that approximates exposed brick, highlighted by attractive Edison bulb pendant lights. Wall décor features “eat” and “yum” signs, along with a small bicycle and sparingly used additional items like watering cans with flowers, for a clean, neat look.

Because of the pandemic, about four tables were open for dining. Another change due to the pandemic are the paper plates and plastic utensils employed for sanitary reasons.

The Basil Leaf menu lists appetizers like summer rolls, edamame and fried tofu triangles. We kicked off our meal with potstickers ($6.95) and “angel wings” described as “chicken wings fried to a golden perfection and served with a Thai sauce.” ($6.95)

The soup section listed Thai favorites like the sweet and sour Tom Yum Goong and Tom Kha Gai featuring chicken, coconut milk, lime and scallions. A selection of six salads includes the popular Larb Gai with ground chicken, red onion, cilantro, scallions and spicy lime dressing. Listed among “The Classics” are perennial favorites like Pad Thai, Drunken Noodle and Pineapple Fried Rice.

Chef’s specials include three types of duck dishes: Tamarind duck, Chili duck and Duck Choo Chee, described as boneless duck with pineapple, tomato, bell pepper, carrot and snow peas in a Cho Chee curry sauce. Seafood lovers will also have plenty of choices from shrimp dishes, to salmon and a combo called “Seafood Delight,” with shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels mixed with vegetables and served in a curry sauce.

My husband decided on the “Chef’s Special” for which the restaurant is named. Thai Basil ($15.95) is comprised of spicy minced chicken sautéed with onion, mushroom, basil leaves and red and green peppers in a Thai style chili sauce.

No Thai menu is complete without a selection of curry dishes. Basil Leaf offers red, green, yellow, Massaman and Panang. I happen to like them all. The eatery serves the curry dishes with the customer’s choice of protein: tofu, chicken, pork, shrimp or beef. I settled on the red curry, made with red and green peppers, mushrooms, carrots, eggplant, green beans and basil leaves ($12.95).

We were happy with the timing of our dishes and at no time did we feel rushed, or that we were waiting too long for a course to arrive. Just minutes after ordering, we were digging into the plump, yet delicate pork potstickers and the piping hot, meaty “Angel Wings,” which were my favorite. I also enjoyed the chili sauce we requested alongside the sweet and sour sauce and found myself wishing that I could purchase a jar for home use.

The waitress checked on us a few times to see if we needed anything, and a few minutes after we finished our appetizers, we were presented with a generously sized main course served with a dome of white rice. I chose a mildly hot version of the red curry and was pleased with the coconut milk-based dish chock full of colorful and crunchy vegetables.

My husband enjoyed his Thai Basil and was soon wiping his brow due to the heat level of the dish, served hot, the way he likes it. “The flavors of chicken, fresh veggies, fried basil leaves and mushroom somehow blasted through the spicy, savory sauce,” he said.

Because he has such a large appetite, he finished his entire meal. I, on the other hand, had enough left over for a second round the following day.

Our friendly waitress surprised us with the light and crunchy shrimp chips at the beginning of our meal and informed us that there was yet another on-the-house surprise waiting, which we soon learned was a plate of piping hot Thai doughnuts drizzled with chocolate sauce and decorated with two American flags. I ate one, then went in for another. If you’ve ever had an authentic Fasnacht and you enjoy those, then you will love Thai doughnuts.

Basil Leaf Thai Cuisine, like so many other restaurants, is limited to 50 percent capacity at the moment. I do hope that restaurants will be able to make it through this and that people will consider dining out more often to help all our eateries as they try to stay afloat during this challenging time.

Next Up: Dinner at Sierra Madre in Camp Hill.

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