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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Pink Basil boasts fine service, flavorsome dishes

    Mee Goreng with duck at Pink Basil (Alex Nunes, Special to The Day)

    There's something quite nice and impressive going on these days at Pink Basil in Mystic.

    From the relaxing atmosphere to the stellar service and, of course, the delicious menu items, the Olde Mistick Village spot has the right mix needed of a sure-bet lunch or dinner spot, perfect this time of year for the village holiday shopper looking for a quick and delightful break.

    The ambience is peaceful and cool, with a Restoration Hardware-chic vibe. The dining room is open, with high ceilings, wainscoting and a hip pink trim molding. The booths are cozy and a sleek black, with Edison bulbs in lantern boxes hanging atop the table.

    And while I typically avoid listening to John Mayer or James Blunt crooning "You're Beautiful" in a trademark velvet voice, there is something about it I like within the larger context of the Pink Basil experience.

    As with many pan-Asian and Thai restaurants, the menu is long and varied in its offerings. For appetizers, you can try anything from Tako Su ($6.95), a thinly sliced octopus and cucumber salad topped with tobiko and pnzu sauce, to Hae Kainge ($6.95), a mix of ground pork and water chestnuts wrapped and fried in soy paper, to crispy chicken wings ($6.95) served either plain or prepared with General Tso, ginger orange or teriyaki sauce.

    Under "Chef's Select Entrees," there's the Cashew Nut crispy chicken with Szechuan sauce and veggies ($13.95), Bulgogi Korean grilled beef served with kimchi and red rice ($16.95), and the grilled lemongrass meal served Vietnamese-style with beef or pork over vermicelli noodles and vegetables ($13.95).

    From there, you can try a range of noodle soup, noodle entrees, wok, fried rice, and curry dishes. And then there's the sushi menu: a double column, single page of offerings ranging from basic tuna or salmon roll ($5.95 each) to more elaborate rolls such as The Drawbridge Roll ($15.95) of spicy tuna, kani crab and cucumber topped with salmon, tuna, avocado, tempura flakes, tobiko and ponzu sauce, and the Olde Mistick Village Roll ($14.95) with tempura shrimp, kani, spicy mayo and eel sauce.

    To start, I went with the crispy calamari ($10.95) and two sushi rolls recommended by my waiter.

    The calamari was excellent and quite different from the panko-crusted variety you're probably most accustom to. It's squid coated and fried in a denser but airy batter, served with similarly fried broccoli, bell pepper, onion and carrot with a sweet and spicy sauce topped with chopped peanuts on the side.

    I was especially impressed by my sushi rolls, which were exceptionally fresh, expertly rolled, and delicious. The first, the Crunchy Tuna Roll ($13.95), came with spicy tuna, tempura flakes, avocado and spicy mayo. Next was the Sweetheart Roll (also $13.95), playfully shaped into hearts and comprised of a spicy tuna and avocado interior, topped with slices of salmon and tuna.

    The two were so good and satisfying that, for a moment, I swore I must have ordered "The Happiness Roll" I saw advertised on the menu.

    It's not easy to choose from the list of entrees, as many have creative and striking descriptions. I decided to go with a few noodle options and a rice dish from the curry section.

    The Mee Goreng was a spicy, but not overly so, mix of bell peppers, bok choy, tomatoes, bean sprouts, cilantro and choice of meat, prepared with spicy chili paste and lo mein noodles. The price here varies by dinner and lunch portions as well as meat option. I went with the duck ($11.95 for lunch; $17.95 for dinner), which was exceptionally moist and came with skin on and crispy.

    The Pad Thai was familiar but noteworthy in its execution and the variety of veggies that come with the vegetable and tofu option I went with ($7.95 and $12.95). It was prepared with rice noodles, fried egg, bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, ground peanuts and a wedge of lime on the side.

    For curry rice dishes, you're given the choice between six options (red, green, panang, nonya, massaman, and pineapple), with prices ranging based on choice of meat. I went with the panang, consisting of a curry paste and coconut milk sauce, bell peppers, peas, and lime leaves. The tofu I had came in small cubes, as it did with the Pad Thai, fried with a nice variation in texture between the crispier exterior and soft interior.

    Service at Pink Basil was commendable. My party was seated immediately, and a basket of airy and salty rice chips were promptly brought to our table with glasses of water to go around. My waiter was happy to make suggestions, and our meals were brought out quickly, yet in a manner that didn't make us feel rushed or hurried.

    There's certainly no shortage of restaurants in our area offering sushi with Thai and Pan-Asian cuisines, but with its mix of stellar service, experience and gastronomical excellence, Pink Basil certainly stands out in my mind.

    Sweetheart Roll at Pink Basil (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)
    The crispy calamari at Pink Basil in Mystic. (Alex Nunes/Special to The Day)

    27 Coogan Blvd., Suite 3B, Mystic

    (860) 245-4470, pinkbasilct.com

    Cuisine: Asian fusion

    Service: Friendly and accommodating

    Price: Moderate

    Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. weekdays, noon-10 p.m. weekends

    Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover

    Handicapped access: Yes

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