This week we crossed the Atchafalaya to visit Blu Basil Wine & Grill, a new Vietnamese restaurant on Johnston Street in Lafayette.
The restaurant mixes traditional Asian design with a helping of modern taste. That feel parallels its excellent menu that takes traditional dishes and spices them up with hip and contemporary flair.
For a good example of this combo, just check out Blu Basil's teasers (appetizers) and small plates selection.
The Sriracha kimchi fries ($9) could be a meal by itself. The app is a savory mix of Sriracha and spicy mayo, bulgogi beef, kimchi and a sunny-side-up fried egg, all piled atop french fries. This is definitely not traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Rather, it's the type of plate that shows how well Blu Basil mixes American, Korean and Vietnamese flavors in one dish.
The pattern of remixing Vietnamese and Asian cuisine can be found throughout Blu Basil's menu. The coconut shrimp appetizer ($8) features skewered and tempura fried jumbo shrimp, best enjoyed like a carnival corn dog.
On the signature rice entrees section of the menu, the pineapple shrimp fried rice ($16) and coconut curry ($17) are eye-catching joys served within half-pineapples and coconuts, respectively. That these dishes' tastes live up to the stylish plating is an added bonus.
However, one cannot visit a Vietnamese restaurant without partaking in pho.
Personally, my first experience with pho was at a relatively unknown Cajun/Vietnamese restaurant with a well-known food critic and voice actress. Good company always makes good food better, and that experience sets a high bar when it comes to this quintessential noodle dish.
I'm happy to write that Blu Basil’s pho with mixed seafood ($11, $12.50 for large) gives that memory a run for its money.
This hearty bowl had a variety of seafood options mixed together. As I tore through the crab, shrimp, scallops and fish ball, I was slightly disappointed when I realized all that was left were noodles and veggies. But to my surprise, as I slurped up the noodles, I found clams hiding in the carbohydrate kelp forest as if they were an extra little snack just for me.
If you have a little room, Blu Basil doesn't skimp on dessert, either. Both the green tea cheesecake ($7) with ice cream and the simple but decadent blueberry lychee cheesecake ($5) are scrumptious ways to end any meal.
Although some of the options can be a bit pricey, everything we tried was worth the cost. If you love Vietnamese cuisine or want to try a twist on those flavors, we recommend a visit to Blu Basil.
WHERE: 5451 Johnston St., Lafayette
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
INFO: (337) 456-1120 or blubasilwineandgrill.com
PROS: Excellent food with atmosphere to match. Must-tries include pineapple shrimp fried rice, coconut curry and Sriracha kimchi fries.
CONS: Some of the food can be a little pricey, but the quality more than makes up for it.