With a sprouting trend of healthy-eating, Basil Box blossoms as a Toronto fast-casual franchise, with the launch of their third location at the corner of Spadina. The restaurant offers customizable meals with a Thailand and Vietnamese twist using a concept inspired by – Ryerson alumni – owner Peter Chiu’s recent adventures to Southeast Asia, in awe of the daily grind of fresh produce being wheeled around in carts at the street market.
Amidst the downtown hustle of Ryerson students and Financial District professionals, shoppers at Square One, or Chinatown adventurers the restaurant provides a breath of fresh air. The lounge-like interior has a sleek modern design with high-top tables, large comfortable sofas and provides plentiful space for either hanging out with friends or getting some work done.
Their menu works similarly to other build-your-own restaurants, starting with either spring mix, chilled rice noodles, brown or jasmine rice as a base. Then choosing two of their four vegetable options: corn, peppers, edamame or sweet potatoes. Pick a protein: chicken, shrimp, steak or tofu. Douse it in sauce: tamarind, peanut, chili lime, sriracha, or curry. And lastly, top it off with fried shallots, sesame seeds, pickled daikon, sesame seeds, herbs, pumpkin seeds, and chilies which will amp up the taste and texture.
I was pleasantly surprised with the generous portion that piled onto the creation of my own customized box. Even having chosen mild flavours, each of the components came together nicely; from the sesame oil-drizzled chilled rice noodles, lemongrass flavours from the corn and chicken, the roasted crunchiness of the peppers and pumpkin seeds, and the sweetness of the tamarind sauce.
Everything on their menu is sourced locally, is gluten-free, and is low sodium. No preservatives are added to their menu items, as it is all made fresh daily. After having such a fulfilling meal, I felt ready to take on my day with such flavourful, yet nutritious food.
Their GMO-free hand-crafted specialty drinks are made with cane sugar; including an imported Thai Iced Tea, Mango Ginger Ale, Pineapple Rose Soda, and a Passionfruit Lychee Soda.
Their selection of pre-made snacks are plentiful, as well. The Sweet Mango Rice Parfait, which combines coconut rice with mango, satisfies the sweet-tooth.
If you’re a fan of the modern-day cafeteria, such as Chipotle and Freshii, Basil Box will fit right in with your expectations, but exceed in terms of its exotic tastes and proportions. Mix and matching different ingredients creates unlimited possibilities that capture the vibrant flavours of Southeast Asia, ranging from mild and tangy to bold and spicy.
In addition to Ryerson University's SLC and Square One, Basil Box's newest location just opened at 441 Queen St. West. (Spadina & Queen), and another will follow in Spring 2017, at 20 John St. (Front & John).
Photos by Janey Tso