Sweet basil, a pungent and spicy herb with a flavor akin to cloves, originated in India, where it is believed to be a sacred protection against evil. The basil might not be fighting dark spirits at Kuraya “Kay” Chulacharit’s Sweet Basil restaurant, but things are going right for the eatery. Kay has taken home the Chef’s Night Out prize for Overall Best Bite two years in a row.
The aromatic leaves can be found in many of Kay’s dishes, including her green curry, deep-fried honey duck, and of course the spicy sweet-basil stir-fry. Kay’s also not afraid to use other traditional thai spices.
Aromas of fresh garlic, cilantro, and coconut milk waft across the cozy eatery, tempting customers to choose items such as garlic prawns, ba mee nam egg noodles, and three-flavor halibut. Deep-fried to a golden brown, the halibut comes topped with sweet-plum sugar, sour tamari, and garlic chili, making it a favorite of the Eugene Review. Dessert tempts tongues with a fried banana topped with powdered sugar and honey or with four types of housemade ice cream.
Chef Bupar acquired her culinary prowess alongside her mother, who operated a street-side café in Bangkok for more than 20 years. Today, she draws on recipes she learned from her mother to conjure up the bustling, spice-tinged air of the city of her youth. The traditional Thai flavors of ginger, lemongrass, and garlic flood dishes and thick coconut milk helps lower the potency of red chilies in a range of curries to a pleasant warmth. Beneath the eatery’s saffron-hued walls and decorative greenery, bouquets of basil, cilantro, and fresh sprouts bestow portions of noodles and rice with textural variety.
Diners can sit outdoors if the weather and 80-foot sentient dragon statue permits, or enjoy after-dinner entertainment at the nearby Matthew Knight Arena. Downstairs in The Underground Lounge, diners can feast on the main restaurant’s full menu in a more casual atmosphere adorned with pool tables, HDTVs, and dartboards.
Having dietary restrictions at a buffet can be a tough to manage due to hidden ingredients and a lack of vegetarian options. Fortunately, that's not a problem at Govinda's Vegetarian Buffet, winner of "Best Vegetarian Bite" by King Estate. All the dishes at this meatless eatery are explicitly designated so that guests can safely pick up slices of gluten-free bread, cups of vegan soup, or dollops of dairy-free salad dressing. Even without the classifications, it'd be pretty hard to stray from dietary paths, as the proprietors estimate that 9 out of 10 of their daily offerings are made without dairy, gluten, or smoldering molten lava. With this in mind, customers can guiltlessly peruse the buffet table that's loaded with everything from hearty salad fixings to vegetarian-friendly Indian fare. When in season, the chefs use local, organic ingredients to prepare their health-conscious dinner entrees, including tofu lasagna, split-pea fritters, and coconut curry. To keep things even fresher than they already are, the menu changes daily, with staff serving a new entree, soups, and fresh breads every day.
The cooks at Spice & Ice temper their dishes' fiery Asian flavors with creamy gelato, made fresh every day from imported Italian ingredients. Owner Reba Worotikan draws from her time living in southeast Asia to inform her eatery's menu, which focuses on healthy preparations of Southeast-Asian favorites. Morsels of sweet 'n' sour pork or stir-fried vegetables sizzle in woks, and the grill sears chicken-satay skewers and steak served with a choice of sides, such as chili-ginger slaw. For the menu's many gluten-free options, chefs accommodate patrons by using homemade, separately stored, gluten-free sauces.