Lime & Basil
200 W. Franklin St. #130
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11 am-9:30 pm
Review Date: September 10, 2004
Reviewers: Donna Allison, Kruti Desai, Mehul Desai, Dick Howard, and Susan Olson
The Ambience: Lime green walls work. Green was (very appropriately) THE color at Lime & Basil, and it was used to a wonderful advantage. The ambience is fresh and risp, and was a perfect setting for our delicious meal. The space was not very large, but designed well so it did not feel crowded or cramped. The service was spectacular. We were supposed to be a party of 12, and Gracie Vo - the owner - was very accommodating even though they do not take reservations in the evenings. We ended up being a party of just five, and although one of our parties was late, the staff was very helpful and attentive.
The Food: Vietnamese food at its best has the freshest ingredients - just-in-time cut vegetables and herbs are an integral part of the meal itself. Lime & Basil shines at this tradition. While meat is quite common for most dishes, this restaurant offers a variety of vegetarian substitutes. Tofu and vegetarian chicken work very well with the noodles, herbs and veggies served up. In fact, the menu features an entire section of appetizers and entrees that are vegetarian. Vegans can rejoice - all the items in the vegetarian menu are vegan. The fine Vietnamese noodles (called Vermicelli) used as a substitute for rice in a lot of dishes are made without any dairy products, so either rice or vermicelli is a safe option. Lime & Basil have a special drink called the "Bubble Tea" ($3.50). It's an icy blend of non-dairy creamer, sugar and different flavored powders, with Tapioca balls at the bottom. I had the Green Tea, and it was quite delicious. Kruti loved it too, although she is not very fond of green tea in general. Some of the other flavors available are Mango, Strawberry, Mocha, Coconut, and Green Apple. We started our dinner with the Spring Rolls ($3.95) - crispy friend rolls filled with corn, taro, mushroom and clear noodles served with fishsauce. The fishsauce does NOT have any fish in it - although the name is quite misleading! They were very tasty, but they were too oily to be an absolute success. They do have a non-fried option - the Salad Rolls ($3.50). Those are tofu, shredded cucumber, tomato, basil, mint, lettuce and vermicelli wrapped in fresh rice paper. Donna ordered the Vegetarian Chicken and Spring Roll Vermicelli. It's a grilled veggie chicken filet seasoned with lemongrass and chilies, served with fried Spring Rolls and vermicelli. She thought her food was very delicious and very reasonably priced ($8.50) for the portion served. She took quite a bit home - in fact almost all of us did! The only one not too impressed with her entree was Kruti. She had the Tofu and Tomato Stew with Rice ($8.50). It's a dish of fried tofu stuffed with a vegetable filling braised in a tomato and onion sauce, topped with cilantro and served with Jasmine rice. She thought the food was quite bland, and a bit watery. In all fairness, I tasted a bit of it from her plate, and I thought it was quite good! Susan had the House Delight Vegetarian Fried Rice - a combination of fried tofu, veggie chicken and bean sprouts stir fried with rice. She thought her meal was very hearty and quite delicious. Dick and I both ordered the same dish, the Stir-fried Lemongrass sauteed Tofu with Vermicelli. As the name implies, it's stir fried tofu sauteed with lemongrass and chilies, served with vermicelli, Vietnamese vegetarian sauce and shredded lettuce, cucumber, bean sprouts, mint and basil. We loved the complementary taste of the herbs and vegetables mixed in with the tofu. I wish the tofu was crisper and a bit more flavored, but overall it was a winner.
The Verdict: The verdict was unanimous - a trip to Lime & Basil is a satisfying one. The casual sophistication of the decor, the smiling and ever-helpful staff and the delicious and hearty food all make it a heck of a trip. Be aware though - judging from the crowds we encountered, getting a table here may not be so easy. What better compliment for a restaurant?!