Philip and I have been eating at Sweet Basil for years. Odd that I haven’t reviewed it yet, right? Actually, we went to Sweet Basil shortly after the inception of Chattavore in May 2011 and I started writing a post, but it was the end of the school year and that just isn’t a good time for me to do much of anything. The post never got finished and thus is now referred to as “the lost post”. When I updated my tags and created my recipe and restaurant index last month, I finally deleted the poor, forlorn post. Still, Sweet Basil deserves my love so finally we ended up back there yesterday. There was no planning ahead on our part; we had no idea where we were going when we left our house but after a marathon shopping trip to the School Box to spend some of my classroom money, it was close and sounded good to both of us.
At three in the afternoon, you may have expected it to be dead but it wasn’t. Not that it was packed out or anything, but there were several other tables occupied. We were immediately seated, though, after taking quick note of the lunchbox special including soup, salad, a spring roll, and chicken Panang curry (there may have been some other things but I didn’t notice). The tables were set with a plates, ornately folded napkins (which the server unfolded and placed in our laps), dinner menus, and a sushi menu. This is a phenomena that I wish someone would explain to me. Sweet Basil has not always served sushi and I am assuming that they started after Rain Thai Bistro opened and started serving sushi. I’m sure the sushi is good and I’m sure these places serve it on popular demand, but these are Thai restaurants. If I want sushi I’ll go to a Japanese restaurant. Why does a Thai restaurant need to serve sushi? So confusing. But I digress.
Anyway, we’ve kind of fallen off the bandwagon of using our Adventures in Dining Guide for every blog post. We did it last week but sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for the restaurants found there. Lucky for us, though, there was a Kids First coupon for $5 of $25 here at Sweet Basil. Yippee! Usually we order some spring rolls (crispy fried spring rolls served with tamarind sauce) but Philip was drawn to the basil rolls today so we decided to order those. The basil rolls are not fried. They are made with rice paper wrappers filled with thin rice noodles, a thick stack of sweet basil leaves, lettuce, and a single piece of shrimp each. They were served with a sweet and tangy plum sauce. Fresh and delicious, these made me want to make some unfried spring rolls at home. Look for a blog post soon(ish). We will order these again. At some point we would like to try the golden basil cups, crispy basil leaves with a shrimp, chicken, and corn-based filling.
This is one of those places that every time I go, I think “I need to branch out and order something other than the usual” but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I always order the Pad Thai. I think I ordered the lunchbox special once and, while I liked it, I found myself longing for my beloved Pad Thai, so I decided that branching out probably isn’t worth it. When I ordered the Pad Thai, the server removed my plate because they serve their Pad Thai in a large dish that’s kind of like a plate/bowl hybrid. The Pad Thai is typically served with shrimp, but the server asked me if I wanted shrimp so I assume that sometimes people order it with chicken, beef, or pork, or meatless. I definitely wanted the shrimp. Pad Thai is not spicy hot so it doesn’t have a chili pepper denoting the spiciness level, but you can request it with additional spice. Of course, I did not. The medium-wide rice noodles are stir-fried with a sweet & sour sauce with eggs, tofu, green onions, and shrimp, served with mung bean sprouts, chopped peanuts, and a lime slice for topping. Perfection. It’s unlikely I’m going to start ordering anything else here any time soon.
Like me, Philip always orders the same thing: Panang curry. Usually he orders pork, but today he decided to order beef. Panang curry is a one-chili-pepper spicy dish but Philip decided to up the spice factor to two chili peppers (which harkens back to the time we ate at Thai Smile for lunch years ago and the guy behind us ordered his curry with four-chili-pepper spiciness. Whoa, man. Crazy.). The time that I ordered the lunchbox special it came with chicken Panang curry and I found the standard one-chili-pepper spiciness to be too much for my wimpy taste buds, but Philip has a much higher heat tolerance than I do. For someone with a high tolerance, this curry doesn’t really start out spicy but the spiciness builds as you eat it. The server brought out a plate with the curry on it as well as a container of plain sticky white rice, which she scooped onto the plate that was preset onto the table. Panang curry paste is made with chili peppers, cilantro, Kaffir lime rind, and a variety of other exotic and not-so-exotic spices and seasonings, then mixed into a coconut milk based sauce and served with stir-fried sliced meat and peppers (green and red bell peppers). Philip ate most of it and declared at the end that he could finish it but he wouldn’t.
I was terribly sad that I didn’t have room for dessert. Perhaps next time I will go back on my word and have some soup and a Thai salad (with peanut dressing) so that I can have space for some sticky rice with mango or maybe some coconut or green tea ice cream. Not this time, though. I also am dying to try Thai iced tea, which is sweet with condensed milk, but I’m thinking that maybe that’s one of those things I’m going to have to make at home because it’s unlikely I’ll ever pay to purchase it in a restaurant. Anyway, before the coupon, our total was $31. The server was quick to take our coupon when she cleared the table, bring back the check, and run our credit card. They also kept our water glasses filled and they are always very, very friendly. The ladies at the table behind us even got their picture taken with one of the servers! We love Sweet Basil and so far it’s our favorite Thai food in Chattanooga (while we’ve only reviewed one other, we have tried other Thai restaurants prior to the existence of Chattavore), though we have heard great things about a couple we haven’t gotten around to yet. Stay tuned.
Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine is located at 5845 Brainerd Road, Chattanooga, TN 37411 (across from the Wal-Mart complex). You can call them at 423-485-8836.