By Jeanne Daryl C. Franco
One of the unexpected advantages of living near Tagaytay is having a slew of out-of-the-way restaurants to visit. Suddenly, a wide
variety of cuisines is just a hop and a skip away. I relish the feeling of knowing valuable information only a privileged few have. My friends know who to ask when they have a hankering for something new, fresh and interesting. One of the flavors they are addicted to is Thai and I always have one suggestion for them: Lime and Basil.
Lime and Basil Thai Restaurant opened at a time when hidden restaurants were piquing the interest of metro dwellers looking for something tasty and unique. Since they opened six years ago, Lime and Basil was able to carve its own niche offering a predominantly Thai-inspired menu and all its wonderful, complex flavors. The choice of cuisine was a no-brainer as the family of owner Chef Sigrid Sarmiento-Sayos has operated Thai restaurants in Manila for decades. The chef admitted that they were fortunate to have opened at a time when the garden-to-table trend was peaking, especially now that a rapidly growing number of dining places in the city is attracting more customers. “Ah oo ibang-iba na ngayon kumpara sa noong nag-umpisa kami dito. Ang dami na ngayong mapupuntahan pero ok lang, we were able to establish ourselves. Now, mas masaya for people kasi marami silang choices. Mas maraming reasons to go up to Tagaytay,” said the soft spoken Chef Sig whose sweet voice and dimples belie the fact that she is the creative force who started it all in 2012.
She was quick to give credit to her husband, Chef Orvin Sayos, who has taken over the reins in the kitchen and majority of the operations since she became pregnant and gave birth to their adorable son. His no-nonsense approach to creating inventive dishes, maintaining quality in the kitchen, managing a staff that has almost trebled since we first visited two years ago, and even partnering
with artisanal producers for takeaway items are the exact factors that keep Lime and Basil as the go-to Thai restaurant in the area. One of the more interesting items that customers may take home is Pacheco rice, a finely milled variety from the mountains of Magallanes, Cavite. The chef and his wife shared that people from Pacheco keep their rice pure and unadulterated (no preservatives, food color and chemicals). “We want to support our local farmers and eat healthy too. All the items that we offer are made by artisanal producers,” Chef Sig said proudly. Part of the restaurant’s new offerings are bottled products of gourmet tuyo, tinapa, achara and other homemade takeaway goodies. Guests will even find non-food items in their shop, Laura’s Yard, such as quality aprons, marble boards direct from Romblon, well made wood products for kitchen use and the popular silver bowls that make perfect gifts (these sell out fast, so buy one when you see it on display).
But of course, the stars at Lime and Basil is the food. Sublime, stupendous, spectacular. Every dish is big, bold and packed with so much flavor. The colors are riotous, fun and summery. The aromas, fresh and invigorating with the zing of calamansi and many spices. Our long table in the open air veranda was laden with the chef ’s new imaginings and the resto’s classic bestsellers: Yam Som O (a fresh and abundant salad with pomelo, shrimps, chicken, Thai herbs and dressing — our new favorite!); the interestingly named Son-In-Law Eggs (a palate pleaser of contrasting flavors and textures with fried hard boiled eggs, tamarind sauce, crispy shallots and cilantro); the excellently prepared Gaeng Ped Pet Yang Kai Khem (pan seared duck breast with red curry, pineapple, eggplant); the Thai staple dish of Pad Thai; and Kao Pad Saparos (pineapple fried rice with pork floss and delectable Chang
Mai sausage that they prepare themselves using local ground pork with Thai herbs and spices). We consider dessert a basic food group so we simply had to have Kao Neiw Mamaung or fragrant sticky rice with ripe, luscious mango, a classic dessert in Thailand, and that country’s version of Halo Halo with pure coconut milk and traditional ingredients such as water chesnuts, langka and kamote. We washed down our exceptional lunch with healthy Lemongrass juice and their own recipe of refreshing Thai Iced Tea. Chef Sig explained that they have added set menus for a minimum of 12 people to satisfy big group cravings. For both classic dishes like Tom Yum Goong and the new plates, Lime and Basil sticks to their ideals of making everything fresh, only cooking food when ordered, and that no dish is prepared in advance.
Enjoying Thai cuisine with trees, plants and flowers around you make for a satisfying meal — your tastebuds are singing as your eyes feast on the fresh beauty of nature. The mature bamboo grove near the veranda also provided soothing sounds of swishing leaves every time a breeze passed through. After a meal, why not take a walk in the herb and flower garden (where the garnishing comes from) to shake down some of the calories? My grandmother firmly believes that walking after a meal keeps unwanted pounds away. I am not entirely sure that is true, but a stroll around the garden of Lime and Basil was quite peaceful. Here, the power couple chefs and restaurateurs practice natural and traditional farming methods: no pesticides, no sprays, no chemicals. I even discovered where they plant the prettiest edible flower I have ever seen (and reluctantly devoured to discover its velvety texture), the two-toned Dianthus which roughly translates to “flower of love” or “flower of the gods”. And this here is exactly why discovering hidden culinary gems such as Lime and Basil will never get old.
My friends (and their friends) have made it kind of a habit to dine at Lime and Basil whenever they want to enjoy a taste of Thailand right in the hills of Alfonso, Cavite. Now you have the inside info.
No need to book a flight to enjoy the flavors of Thailand. Visit Lime and Basil Thai Restaurant at 9014 J. Rizal St., Brgy. Sicat, Alfonso Cavite. For reservations, please contact 0915.627.6393.