After many months pushing off dining at Basil, and after spending a Shabbat in Crown Heights, I was excited to finally try the restaurant Motzei Shabbat, only to find out they were temporarily closed due to a gas leak. Luckily, a week later we were invited by fellow foodie friends to join them at Basil for an enjoyable night with great company and great food. And it was an enjoyable night.
We spent nearly 3 hours at the restaurant, so there's much to discuss:
Firstly, when we arrived, I was truly impressed by the layout and design of the place, which was very non-traditional for a Kosher restaurant. A bar inside the restaurant that extends outside of the restaurant if they keep the walls/windows open.
Half of the façade of the restaurant opens up to the street which creates an inviting atmosphere for patrons.Upon being seated, the four of us spent much time browsing over the menu's options, many of which looked appealing. No bread or starter was served.
Basil refers to itself as a "Pizza & Wine" bar, which is definitely a unique combination. The prices did reflect the upscale nature of the restaurant.
Our group of four decided to divide and conquer, sharing 2 appetizers, 3 mains, and 2 desserts.To start, we ordered the the fries
, which come with a special truffle oil and parmesan cheese and a flavorful mayo dipping sauce. Truth be told, it was some of the best French fries I've ever had. We were literally fighting over them. They're not your typical fries & ketchup, so don't expect it, but it's a hot and delicious dish you can't ignore.
Our other appetizer was an eggplant parmesan salad, which was quite unique as well: breaded eggplant cubes, fresh mozzarella balls, fresh basil leaves, and tomatoes in a balsamic vinegrette. While I normally dislike balsamic, I found this salad playful and enjoyable.
For our main courses, we ordered 2 pizzas (they're served as medium sized pies – I could've eaten an entire one myself), and a Bronzini.
The Bronzini was cooked to perfection with lots of Mediterranean flavors. They stuff the whole fish with rosemary, garlic cloves and lemons and bake it in the wood fired oven till the skin is crispy. The flesh was moist and juicy and complimented by the delectably crunchy skin. Served with fish are preserved lemons and a delicious warm spinach, chickpea and tomato salad.
As a "Pizza & Wine Bar" we had to try their pizzas, which are made in a beautiful wood oven with a glass door. We tried the "margarita" pizza, which had pesto sauce, tomatoes, cheese, and garlic, no tomato sauce. Always wanting to try something new, I ordered the "Pencil Asparagus & Ricotta" pizza which included golden beets, mint, and jalapeño.
So, here's where we were a bit disappointed. For a "pizza bar", the pizza was lacking a lot of flavor. The presentation was beautiful, but we all felt that we needed to add salt to the pizzas, which I've never had the urge to do. Personally, I feel that the lack of tomato pizza sauce on both pizzas was the likely culprit. The pizzas looked really good but fell flat on flavor.
Additionally, the 2nd pizza was supposed to have mint & jalapeño on it and it did not. If it did, it surely didn't taste like it did, and that too was disappointing.
For dessert, my wife and I both agreed on the funnel cake, which we've always wanted to try but is impossible to find kosher. This came with basil ice cream, which I've heard numerous people rave about. Our friends ordered the Napolean.
The funnel cake arrived and we couldn't wait to rip into it. It's essentially fried dough with confectioners sugar. Who doesn't crave that at all waking hours? I know I do. It was delicious. Some of the best pastry I've ever had. The funnel cake was complemented by a ridiculously amazing basil ice cream – which literally tastes like basil, with the consistency of vanilla ice cream. If you love the flavor of basil, you'll flip out for this dessert. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough.
The Napolean, a flaky pastry dough filled with a cheesy cream filling, was also really delicious.
Additionally, my wife was very impressed with their coffee & lattes which we enjoyed.
One drawback that we experienced was the service. Even though the restaurant is not particularly large, and we were there for nearly 3 hours, our waiter barely paid attention to us, and did not come by unless we called him over. I don't think there were enough waiters in the place (seemed like there was only one), so that could be a relatively easy fix. On the flip side, the food did not take particularly long to come out of the kitchen, so that's a plus.
Another drawback for anyone driving in to the area is the lack of parking in Crown Heights. Be prepared to park far from the restaurant. We were lucky enough to be able to park in a friend's driveway, but we still had a 10 minute walk to Basil.
Prices are high compared to most kosher restaurants, but within the upper scale restaurants, the prices were manageable. Our bill for 2 apps, 3 coffees, one beer, 3 mains, and 2 desserts came to ~$150, under $40 a person (without wine).
Overall, we felt that if nothing else, Basil is an amazing place to spend time with friends (or a date) and enjoy really great appetizers or amazing desserts. If you're going for tasty pizza, the relatively small and lacking $17 pies are not your best bet.
One thing's for certain, I will be back for more funnel cake and basil ice cream. If that could be my meal, it would.