It was getting late and we were hungry and slightly lost. Eventhough Anthony had been to this restaurant recently, we still required some time to get our bearings right. The dark and empty roads were not very helpful either. Personally, I wouldn't have thought that there are clusters of restaurants in this quiet part of Ampang. As we turned into Jalan Damai, we began to see dimly lit bungalows with signboards. Those must be restaurants, we reassured ourselves.
Call me artistically-declined, but for whatever reason there was, the Basil Leaf Restaurant signboard was so poorly lit, we passed by once without noticing it. A sigh of relief when we found the place. Ample parking spaces were available and I was surprised to see how quiet this place was on a Saturday night.
The beverage menu was quite extensive, ranging from generic soft drinks to exotic concoctions to wine. We had the Orange Juice (RM12), Coconut Juice (RM8), Lemongrass Juice (RM7) and a bottle of 1.5 litre Eau Claire (RM6!).
As for the food, this Siam/IndoChine themed restaurant boosted a diversed array of dishes, ranging from the typical Thai dishes such as Tom Yam and Pineapple Fried Rice to rarer delicacies such as Grilled Beef with Laotian Sauce.
We started off with the Mieng Kam (RM16), a do-it-yourself Thai snack where flavourful ingredients such as minced garlic & shallots, chopped bird eye chili and lemongrass, diced lime, crushed peanuts and dried shrimps are wrapped with betel leaves and topped with a special chili paste. The ingredients were quite fresh but I expected crunchy dried shrimps instead of the soft type and toasted peanuts too. The chili paste was a tad too sweet for my palate, perhaps due to the overuse of brown sugar. There was also a slight hint of dried prawn paste. Next came the Prawn and Crabmeat Cake (RM18). The breaded and deep-fried cakes were springy and sweet. I'm not sure how they managed to mince the meat to such refined texture, but it sure tasted rather artificial, somehow. I would have preferred the cake with bits of prawn flesh thrown in, for the extra texture. The complementing sauce was optimally sweet with a touch of savouriness. I'm guessing it's honey with a dash of soya sauce or nam pla (fish sauce). Not impressive.
The Thai Pineapple Fried Rice was rather bland, despite the generous amount of ingredients such as chili, scallion and pineapple. The pineapple was also quite raw, hence the lack of sweetness and fragrance in the fried rice. A letdown. Our last main for the night was the Saigon Fresh Crystal Rolls with Fresh Prawns (RM16). This dish scored high with its presentation but merely passed the taste test. The skin was too thick while the overall ensemble tasted rather uninteresting, despite the freshness of the prawns, leading to the overbearing taste of the peppermint. The dipping chili sauce, which was savoury with a hint of dried seafood aroma, couldn't enhance the taste of the rolls.
We were looking forward to the desserts after the rather unimpressive mains. The Thai Mango with Sticky Rice (RM12) was perhaps the saving grace for the night. The hearty glutinous rice was soft and blended well with optimally ripe mango. A dressing of rich coconut milk added extra smoothness and aroma to the dessert. The Water Chestnut and Jackfruit Concoction (RM10) was rather simple and unimpressive, despite the sweet and aromatic jackfruit used. Basically, It was just a combination of jackfruit, water chesnut, coconut milk and ruby & emerald coloured jellies. Nothing more, nothing less.
Last on the dessert list was the warm Vietnamese Tapioca Pearls with Honey Dew served in Coconut Milk. The dense and fragrant coconut milk absolutely empowered the overall taste. The honey dew, which came in a green puree-like form, was very mild (almost non-existent) in flavour. The tapioca pearls added extra texture but were basically tasteless.
The dinner cost us RM147.20 (3 pax). If you enjoy dining in an exotic contemporary setting with good service sans good food (really average at most), this is the place for you.
Basil Leaf Restaurant
35, Jalan Damai
Off Jalan Tun Razak
55000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2166 1689