Basil Box (Queen)
Basil Box has an original location in Square One and another at Ryerson, and the spread of the healthy Asian grab-and-go concept continues. This location is right at the busy corner of Queen and Spadina, facing off against an infamous McDonald's and the wild tumult of streetcar riders, shoppers and hot dog vendors tangled around this intersection.
As soon as you enter Basil Box, you're greeted by a hearty welcome and an inquiry as to whether you'd like the menu explained to you.
There's a lunch counter style service at the far end of the restaurant where you go through a queue to pick a base, two veggies, protein, sauce and toppers.
The whole interior is inviting, bright, cute and warm with blonde wood and red and white accents.
I start out with their vegetarian option, opting for a base of cold noodles, sauteed peppers and lemongrass corn, tofu marinated overnight in a creamy coconut curry marinade, pickled veggies, super hot fresh thai chilis, sesame and sriracha spiced pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin seeds are earthy, but I think I like the intense tingling kick the chilis add the best. All boxes are $9.45 and gluten-free.
We do a complete 180 and go for the five spice steak, which marinated with a typical zesty blend of clove, cardamom, anise, ginger, and anise seed. It's on short grain brown rice which I don't love as much as the chilled noodles though I'd say it balances out health wise versus the tofu, topped with sweet chili lime sauce, edamame, bold charred sweet potato, and pickled veg.
They do great healthy drinks here and refuse to stock any Coke products. Their signature is the Thai iced tea made with premium green tea and non-GMO and fair trade certified cane sugar, along with a healthy dose of half and half. It's incredibly rich and super sweet, and you have to give it a stir to mix it up before consuming. All drinks are $3.75.
They also do a mango ginger ale made with Monin syrup that I wish was sold in stores. It's like a regular ginger ale but with natural sweetness, and the natural floral overtone of the mango pops with the spice of the ginger and the carbonation.
Photos by Hector Vasquez