The Vu brothers — Tom, John, and Vince — have just opened a restaurant in central Phoenix. Though they’re from south Vietnam (“call it Saigon,” Vince says), their cooking draws from various parts of the country. (“We have north, south, and mid,” Vince notes.) The trio have experience in the restaurant game, as they have four locations of Basilic Vietnamese Grill in Florida. Those are all kindred spirits to Basilic Vietnamese Kitchen, which opened across McDowell Road from the Phoenix Art Museum in early April.
Basilic Vietnamese Kitchen is more visually polished than your typical metro Phoenix Vietnamese restaurant. The design motif that runs through the deceptively spacious 132-seat eatery is white and near-black with sleek metal chairs and contemporary dangling light fixtures. The bar is silky and polished. The brothers designed the restaurant themselves, and Vince even painted a few giant dragon heads.
Prices reflect setting, however. Bowls of pho, on average, are at least a few dollars more than at other places in the city. Same with banh mi sandwiches, which at your usual spot is famously, wonderfully, almost suspiciously cheap.
If you spring for oxtail pho at Basilic, you’ll be dropping $15.
The menu is wide-ranging but not overbearing. A lot of the standard Vietnamese greatest hits make appearances, including banh xeo and bun souped and unsouped. There is a broad selection of starters, including raw and fried spring rolls with fillings like salmon, a mussel bowl, and wok-fried calamari.
Drink options have range, from Vietnamese coffee to Asian beer. There will be cocktails once the brothers hire a mixologist.
Phoenix may seem a strange fifth location of a restaurant micro-chain with its first four locations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach. But the brothers aren’t the only owners of their fifth restaurant. They have partnered with Jaime Triana, who crossed culinary paths with Vince in Florida, and who has old Valley roots.
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Phoenix is different from Miami, and for more reasons than aridity. We have a stealthily solid Vietnamese scene, widely spread though seemingly invisible to outsiders, a scene that seems to be getting stronger with time.
The addition of three brothers doing things like serving dehydrated shrimp chips riffed from what they’ve eaten here at Mexican restaurants can only give the local scene more texture and depth.
Basilic Vietnamese Kitchen. 101 East McDowell Road, 602-237-5145.
Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.