Treat a meal at Basil Asian Bistro as a fine glass of wine. Consume it slowly and pay attention to the nuances.
From painstakingly crafted sushi rolls to a seemingly simple lo mein, each dish is layered with flavors. For example, the Cantonian, a colorful sushi roll filled with crabmeat, avocado and cucumber, is rolled in shiny black and red caviar. Good enough?
Not for sushi chef Kenny Ly. He slices the Cantonian into rounds, tops the rounds with finely diced salmon, then drizzles all with a secret sauce. To finish, he waves a torch across the top to caramelize the sauce. The resultant flavors and textures should be appreciated with small bites and deliberate savoring.
Basil opened June 1 in the site most recently occupied by The Brownstone. The interior is largely unchanged, still split into bar and dining room, both long and narrow. The changes are primarily in art and color, with an emphasis on black and red.
“We kept the Asian motif minimal, subtle,” said owner Tony Ly. “We wanted a contemporary feel.”
Tony Ly is the nephew of Ricky Ly, whose restaurant was a popular mainstay in the Belden Village area’s Thursday’s Plaza. His father, Loung Ly, the chef at Basil, was chef at Ricky Ly’s for 25 years.
Basil’s menu includes notes and flavors from many Asian cuisines, including Chinese, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese, as well as a few dishes diners may remember from Ricky Ly’s. One of Basil’s signature dishes is Thai Spaghetti, a masterful combination of noodles, tender shrimp, smoky pork, bell peppers and julienne carrots.
“It’s definitely a fusion dish, with Chinese noodles and spices inspired by Thai cooking,” Tony Ly said. “The sauce is blend of sriracha with Asian basil.”
Asian basil, with its distinctive hint of anise, is found in many menu items, and is the reason for the bistro’s name.
In addition to expected soups such as wonton and egg drop, you’ll also find miso, coconut chicken, sizzling rice, Tom Yum, and Ly’s favorite, the hot and sour. I enjoyed the lo mein, with smoky stir-fried noodles and al dente carrots, onions and bean sprouts in a slightly sweet sauce. As with all the entrees, diners can choose which protein is added to their dish — tofu, chicken, pork or (for an extra cost) shrimp. I chose chicken and was surprised by the more-than-generous amount.
Curries always bring a burst of color to the plate and burst of flavor to the palate, but Ly’s Phuket Curry was exceptional in both regards. The sunset-colored sauce was creamy, buttery perfection and the generous chunks of Asian eggplant were tender and heavenly.
Dinner prices are primarily $11 to $14, with some specialty dishes, such as Peking Duck, higher. Smaller portions are available for $7 to $9 at lunch. If you opt for takeout, you won’t wait long.
“I’m one of the fastest kitchens in the business. I like to boast about that,” Ly said. “We can get your meal out in six minutes or less.”
That’s good — so you can spend your time savoring every bite.
BASIL ASIAN BISTRO
585 Market Ave. N, Canton
OPEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; noon-11 p.m. Saturday.
FROM THE MENU: Two Basil rolls — shrimp, lettuce, onion and basil wrapped in thin rice paper, $2, Tempura asparagus — lightly battered and fried stalks, with ponzu sauce and house spicy mayo, $6.50, Salt & pepper calamari — lightly battered and fried, tossed with house salt and pepper blend, with scallions and dried chili over hot wok, $10, Hot & sour soup, $3.50, Coconut chicken soup, $4, Mango salad — shredded mango over lettuce with sweet mango dressing, $6, Sushi rolls, $4-$7, Sushi sampler — Two pieces sake, maguro, ebi and hamachi with spicy tuna maki and California roll, served with miso soup or ginger salad, $21, Seafood fried rice with shrimp, crabmeat and calamari, $15, Pad Thai, $14, Sweet & sour chicken, $12, Bangkok fish — lightly battered tilapia fillet, spicy basil Thai sauce, $18