1438 S Carrollton Ave
New Orleans, LA 70118-2810
Thai food is pretty much ubiquitous in the USA, New Orleans no-exception whatsoever. (Ask for a Korean restaurant, however..) Basil Leaf is one of a warren of "ethnic" restaurants on this particular bit of South Carrollton, with a Spanish, Lebanese, and Japanese place all within easy walkin' distance.
As Boucherie, our original intent, was completely booked up by yuppies in fetching vintage clothing, we punted to the Basil Leaf. It's really nice inside, with an upscale ambience, snappily dressed servers, and a not-too rowdy clientele. The menu is a rundown of your standard Thai entrees, with a couple interesting entrants - I might be able to get all cozy and funky with the crab meat eggplant napoleon sometime, just not this time. Prices are high, but this is New Orleans. If you're not eating po-boys from the corner shop, you're paying out the nose to eat out and you had best just shut your pie-hole and take it.
I began with a cup of spicy lemongrass soup with shrimp (Tom Yum) ($3.99), an okay rendition of a classic. The broth was all right, but there wasn't enough flavor, and not enough vegetables and "stuff" in it to hold my interest. And they put pineapple in there. Why in god's name would anyone put an innocent pineapple into an equally innocent cup of tom yum? I don't object to pineapple, man. Me and pineapple go way back, we cool with each other, I got a pineapple in my fridge right now- but I don't want to see pineapple all the time. We gotta be apart some days, somehow.
(Also, I make really good tom yum, just sayin').
We also tried some pan-fried potstickers. Sort of an odd concept - a big ol' potsticker with a teeny bit of filling and a whole lotta wrapper. The flavor was good, but more filling would be a good idea, folks.
My friend Pieter has a nice restaurant rule: order the weirdest sounding thing on the menu. At the Basil Leaf, that would be the young coconut seafood curry, billed as a coconut milk curry with chunks of real-live coconut up in the middle of it. We were deeply impressed by the presentation, that's for sure: that's a whole goddamn coconut on our plate, it's like a volcano of seafood, a mixed drink with curry in it, sweet mother of God! After admiring it for a bit, we dug in. The inside of our magical coconut proved to be a pretty good Thai seafood curry, with a nice array of seafood - including some healthily sized scallops and shrimp- and some incredibly thinly sliced and thus rather pleasant pieces of squid. Could have used more heat, but on the whole, a nice dish. Didn't detect any coconut chunks. Not that they taste like a heck of a lot. (Used to chew on coconut in India. Just felt like my arteries were beginning to harden, but it beat chewing gum).
We also tried kaffir lime chicken with vegetables and mushrooms, which was a pretty good curry - again, could have used an infusion of heat, and they cooked them broccoli's too long. I do like the flavor of kaffir lime in pretty much anything. Why is it such a pain in the butt to find? Do I need to start growing it in my house, igniting the suspicion of the neighbors?
On the whole, the Basil Leaf is a decent place to satisfy a Thai food jones in a cushy setting in the Tulane area. They do take-out via campus menus, satisfying the incredible caloric demands of my age-group. Which is a good thing. College students like yours truly depend on erzatz Thai and Japanese food to survive: we'd wither and die, like flowers in winter, without it. We'd be lost without our kaffir-lime martinis and pad-thai specials and California roll samplers. Don't even want to imagine it. What in god's name do students in Billings, Montana do? How do they survive sans spider rolls, seafood pad thai with fake krab, and "crab rangoon"?