A restaurant with eight mismatched tables at the end of a strip mall in rural Oswego County shouldn’t be packed with diners at 8 o’clock at night.
But then again, most restaurants aren’t as good as Basil Thai.
Owners Pongthep and Khanuengnit Siripornsawan opened the restaurant in the Three Rivers Plaza in Phoenix in September 2006, admiralty filling the need for a Thai restaurant between Oswego and Syracuse.
We noticed hand-written notes from elementary school children, thanking the restaurant for donating rice and chopsticks to their class, lined a bulletin board displayed near the front entrance when we arrived for dinner on a Friday night.
After placing our orders and taking a seat, we overheard a woman behind us be told that there’d be a 45-minute wait for her to-go order, which was understandable, considering the husband-and-wife team were the only ones working in the open kitchen, while their daughter mostly handled the orders.
Her face showed skepticism, but a regular waiting for his order assured them that it’s worth the wait. Plus, reading a magazine and newspaper from the stack by the front door make the wait whiz by in a flash.
After about 20 minutes, our first courses arrived: Two pork and shrimp spring rolls ($1.79 each) and an order of roasted pork with cucumber and cilantro ($4.49). The spring rolls each features two plump shrimp, pork, lettuce, cilantro and rice noodles, all wrapped in rice paper.
The texture of the translucent rolls was excellent, thanks to the crisp lettuce. A dip in a sweet and spicy vinegar dipping sauce completed the bite.
The pork, thinly sliced and tender, paired well with the zip from the vinegar in the surrounding sauce and chopped cilantro that topped the dish.
Finding balance between different flavors and textures is important in any cuisine, but Southeast Asian cuisines, in particular, tends bring contrasting flavors to the forefront more than many other cuisines.
Such was the case in our bowls of red curry with squid ($9.99) and pad priew wan with chicken ($8.99), both served with a side of jasmine rice.
The curry was spicy, but creamy and yet at the same time, brothy and rich with Thai basil. The green peppers kept a bit of their crunch and the squid, which can go from under-cooked to overcooked quicker than you can turn off the heat, was perfectly tender.
Pad Priew Wan, a stir fry of onions, pineapple, cucumbers and green peppers, was highlighted by the homemade sweet and sour sauce.
This sweet and sour sauce has about as much in common with bottled, goopy bright-red sweet and sour sauce as a slice of margarita pizza from Lombardi’s has in common with a doughy gas station slice spinning under a heat lamp.
Pineapple was the dominant note, but the astounding depth of flavors and balance between sweetness, acidity and saltiness was proof that this was a recipe perfected over many years.
We polished off our Thai iced coffee—sweetened with condensed milk and at $2.50 for a large Styrofoam cup, a bargain—and packed our leftovers into the containers stacked on the counter.
Just as you’d offer to clear the table when grandma invites you over for dinner, at a family joint like this, it only feels right to help.
Address: 219 County Route 57, Phoenix, N.Y., 13135
- Tuesday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Closed Sunday and Monday.
Phone: (315) 695-2545.
This review originally appeared in the October-November edition of Oswego County Business magazine.