With last week's opening of Basil, a very friendly staffed Thai restaurant in the Short North, comes one of the more impressive lunch specials in Columbus.

With last week's opening of Basil, a very friendly staffed Thai restaurant in the Short North, comes one of the more impressive lunch specials in Columbus.

Basil is currently offering three (count 'em, three) full-sized and full-flavored courses for the anyone-can-afford-it price of $7.50. If this turns out to be only a limited-time enticement to get people to try the city's newest Thai joint, then I suggest you get on it quickly.

If, however, the deal proves to be a permanent fixture of Basil, then expect to see me frequently enjoying a nooner in this cocktail-serving, unshy-about-the-potent-Thai-spicing and rock 'n' rolling establishment (well, at least CD101-style, but at acceptably lowish levels).

You can still smell the varnish coming off the high-polished dark wooden floor and prominent bar in the pleasantly saloony Basil. The eye-attracting shiny floor looks as though it's been detailed with hammer strokes, and it, as well as the unadorned brick walls, are solid holdovers from the refurbished old building. Throw in a simple but spiffy banquette, party room in the back and some thrift-store-like chandeliers and you have a winning mix of vintage and minimalist hip.

If you haven't guessed this yet, know that Basil is that rarity of a Thai restaurant that combines a mod, pub-crawling-friendly vibe with bold mom-and-pop-type flavored food. Yeah, this place is off to an encouraging start. In fact, of the first week's dishes I tried, only a few were mildly disappointing.

Overall I'd say Basil wisely errs on the side of heavy-handed seasoning because that results in rarely boring dishes (it is Thai food, after all) - which is fine for me, because I am not a fan of playing it safe. Here's a taste (asterisks denote lunchtime specials).

* Tom Yum Soup ($5/cup, $9/bowl): Very good. Topped with scallion and cilantro, it was fragrant with lemongrass, lime, a serious chili blast and a big splash of fish sauce.

* Crispy Roll ($7): Packed with noodles and ground chicken, it arrived sliced in segments, topped with the usual Thai accents and had a fun-to-eat and enduring spiky crispness.

* Spring Rolls ($4.50): Served cold, most of the flavor came from a thick and sweet plum sauce (go with the crispy roll).

Nam Sod ($8.50): Loved it! A big plateful of explosive, typically Thai flavors - chili, lime, cilantro, fish sauce plus big shards of ginger - ignited a colorful and toothsome salad of warm ground chicken, red onion, cilantro and roasted peanuts.

Grilled Vegetable Salad ($7.50): The kind of healthy and hearty veggie dish (though I detected a hint of fish sauce) vegetarians claim to want. Searing hot chili flakes and tart fresh lime juice vibrantly combined with a high-heat smokiness to enliven super-firm tofu and a wealth of crispy stir-fried vegetables.

Green Curry ($10): A big serving, but not very dynamic and too sweet for me.

* Tomato Beef over Rice ($9.50): Good. Tender meat and cooked tomatoes married in a bold, sharp-with-garlic, beef-brothy sauce with a smidge of sweetness and a serious kick of botanical heat from seed-in jalapeno slices.

* Pad Thai ($9.50): Just OK. Spicy and on the sweet side - it was a very generous serving but a tad gummy and needed more citrus to wake it up.

Real steal of a lunchtime meal

$7.50 scores a cup of good Tom Yum soup plus an appetizer (like veggie tempura or a cucumber salad) and either a noodle or rice dish (like Red Curry or Pad Prik King).