Lunch at Phở Basil Leaf

Thurs. 03.26.09 – This afternoon, my Mom and I walked over to Seal Beach’s Main Street to try out the new Vietnamese restaurant, Phở Basil Leaf. I had been watching the arrival of a Vietnamese place with trepidation, as I am so spoiled with being less than 15 minutes away from the mecca of Vietnamese food – Westminster and Garden Grove’s Little Saigon. My trepidation was further fueled by the menu that Phở Basil posted in the window of the storefront just a few buildings closer to the Seal Beach pier from O’Malley’s.
The posted menu seemed to be Americanized Vietnamese. Instead of the usual Phở menu of about 10-15 different variations of beef phở, there were only four listed: beef, chicken, pork and tofu. I have never, in 25+ years, of going to authentic Vietnamese restaurants seen a tofu phở on a menu before.
As a dedicated cha gio bún (Bún chả giò) fan, to see that the only bún options were in beef, chicken, pork and tofu, made me think, “Ugh, the attack of Americanized Chinese-Vietnamese food. Ugh.”
Even though Phở Basil Leaf opened over 6 weeks ago, I was waiting to try it out. Waiting for my Mom to be available, so that if the restaurant was dull and Americanized, then my Mom could not force me to go again.
Luckily for us, Phở Basil Leaf was good to surprisingly fresh. The “Summertime Spring Rolls” (as seen above) were fresh and delightful. My Mom declared them the best she has had in years, I thought they were good. My pork bún was good, but not nearly fish sauce-y or basil-y enough. My Mom liked her beef phở.
Phở Basil Leaf is good, but given the immense amount of competition within 7-15 miles, I would love to see them step up their game and aim for a wider variety of authentic Vietnamese and not just dumbed down for Seal Beach’s Main Street.
Phở Basil Leaf, give me some rice wrapped pork (not chicken) chả giò for my bun with a big basil & fish sauce kick. Where is the beef phở with meatballs, beef marrow, and fish balls?
Phở Basil Leaf, challenge us. Seal Beach’s Main Street is not Main Street America, but a main street in the most diverse metropolitan area in the world, we can not only handle kick ass Vietnamese, but we will drive for it.