Holy Basil counters New York City's dearth of good Thai restaurants by offering better-than-average Thai food at a reasonable price in an elegant setting. The second-floor dining room is decorated like the living quarters of an aristocrat, with dark paneling, huge gilt-
framed mirrors, and old-fashioned paintings. The vibrant food - enlivened by chilies, opal basil, and kaffir lime - comes carefully composed. A spicy som turn (green papaya salad) and rich torn kah gai (chicken and coconut milk soup), not to mention anything in kaw praw (a traditional curried preparation), excite your taste buds. A large and informative wine list is an added bonus. A Greenwich Village outpost called Little Basil
Address: 149 2nd Ave.,between 9th and 10th Sts.
Phone: 212/460-55S7. AE, MC, V.
It's hard to find a Thai restaurant in New York where everything is top-notch, but this large, popular Chinatown destination has a few terrific dishes. Among them are Penang duck in a fiery red curry sauce enriched with coconut milk and perfumed with opal basil, and shrimp simmered in your choice of red, green, or yellow curries. An order of steamed jasmine rice or sticky rice will help cool things off a little.
Address: 106 Bayard St., between Baxter and Mulberry Sts.