La Basil gives a new name to traditional Thai

With a name like La Basil, you might be expecting a French restaurant. However, as most aficionados of Thai cuisine probably know, the delicate and sophisticated flavors of Thai food owe a lot to the leafy green herb.

La Basil Thai Cuisine, one of the newest eateries in Bird Rock, does wonders with basil and all the other ingredients needed to make Thai delicacies in the traditional manner. Everything is fresh at this attractive new restaurant.

Owner Jenny Trakolsusap was a student in the master's of business program at San Diego State University when she started working in the kitchen of a Thai restaurant a few years ago. After she graduated, she decided she didn't want to return to Thailand. Instead, Trakolsusap opened a small Thai restaurant in the College area, where she honed her skills in the restaurant business.

About a year later, Trakolsusap was ready to take on a more ambitious business project. After choosing the spot on La Jolla Boulevard, Trakolsusap decorated the interior with artwork from Thailand.

The mocha-and-burgundy color scheme is offset by creamy beige walls. Crystal chandeliers hang above, and the table settings are traditional. They include authentic serving pieces imported from Thailand and handsome but mismatched tableware.

"Our flatware is similar to that in the typical Thai home, where the pieces seldom match," Trakolsusap said. "They're passed down from generations."

The cuisine is strictly traditional. You can opt for mild, medium or hot, but many of the dishes served in La Basil are not spicy, which goes to show that Thai is not synonymous with hot.

La Basil offers a wide range of lunch specials on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The bargain-priced meal deals include soup of the day, tossed green salad, cream cheese wonton and spring rolls. They start at $6.99 for vegetarian, chicken or pork, and go as high as $10.99 for mixed seafood.

Among the many choices on this hefty lunch menu are spicy noodles, fried rice, red, yellow or green curry, hot basil, sweet and sour, and mixed vegetables.

The regular menu is reasonably priced, including the house specialties. The Thai chicken ($9.95 for a half chicken) is marinated overnight and then roasted for its juicy and tender flavor. Prawns with curry sauce ($18.95) is a seasonal item that uses large freshwater prawns, grilled and served in mild curry sauce.

The magnificent Bangkok seafood specialty ($14.95) is a stir-fried dish featuring shrimp, calamari, scallop and green mussel with red and green pepper, mushroom, basil and lemon grass. The seafood mix is beautifully presented in a golden basket.

Trakolsusap is particularly proud of the homemade curries made with traditional Thai ingredients, such as the small red onions we never see in American markets. The cooking process is healthy, and many of the dishes use peanuts in the preparation.

The most popular Thai starter is satay. Those beautiful chicken or beef skewers served with peanut sauce and cucumber sauce for dipping is a Thai mainstay. Enjoy it during your visit for $7.95.

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