DICK SCHAEFFER'S REVIEW
Dining At Basil's Neighborhood Cafe Is C'est Magnifique!
BY DICK SCHAEFFER
C'est Magnifique is the closest I can come to describing the exquisite dining at Basil's.
I have experienced a Mediterranean flair at several places around that sea: a restaurant built on a pier extending into the sea in Terrenia, near Pisa, Italy, another on a hill above Beirut, once the jewel of the Mediterranean, watching the sun set into the sea and at a hotel just across the beach from the sea in Lanarca, Cypress while waiting to board the ferry to Beirut.
All had a definite Mediterranean flair, but none matched the food I enjoyed at Basil's. I was told the owner of the restaurant is Lebanese, which could explain why the food is so good.
The Lebanese go out of their way to make sure that they use only the best ingredients, cooked properly and served immediately.
My regular dining companion is back with me and it was a good thing we showed up early because the restaurant was almost full by the time we left.
We were greeted politely and seated immediately. The decor is modern with modern art hung on dark walls. The floor is dark as well and the ceiling is painted black to lessen the effect of no acoustic tiles and the sight of open girders above.
The tables were set with white table cloths, polished wine and water glasses and napkins which contained immaculately clean silver.
Jazz music was playing at a higher level than I prefer and did nothing to enhance what could have been a magnificent ambiance with the proper music.
The hostess had provided us with a wine list and menus as we were seated. Our waiter, who I later found out is Elliot, approached and asked if we would like a cocktail.
I said we would have wine, but needed a minute or two to study the wine list. The wine list showed an excellent selection of reds, whites and a couple of sparkling, well balanced between domestic and imported wines with a Lebanese wine included.
Prices ranged from $19 to $42 per bottle and $5.00 to $8.00 per glass. My companion ordered a glass of white Zinfandel and I ordered a glass of Australian Shiraz. Both turned out to be excellent choices.
While Elliot was bringing our wine, we turned our attention to the menu. The menu we had was to be replaced the next week, but many of the same dishes were retained.
There are adequate dishes of all types starting with appetizers (Mesas) such as Bruschetta with black olive salsa, tomato and goat cheese at $4.50, Grilled Portabello mushroom, wilted spinach, roasted sweet pepper and goat cheese at $7.25 and fresh bleu crab cake with lemon butter and cilantro oil at $8.95.
Salads such as Artichoke hearts tomatoes, cucumbers, calamata olives, feta cheese and oregano vinaigrette at $4.25 and Arugula, golden raisins, grain mustard vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts at $4.50. Pastas and Risotto such as Pasta Paella - a subtle version of the Spanish paella with chorizo sausage, chicken, fish, shrimp and fresh mussels on saffron angel hair with sweet pepper saffron broth at $14.95 and Salmon with sweet peas, mushroom, asparagus and saffron dill sauce on spinach linguine at $10.95.
Entrees such as Seared Halibut on wilted spinach and mashed potatoes, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomato-Pesto wine sauce at $14.25, Mideastern Mix Grill - lamb chop, chicken and kafta on cous-cous with grilled vegetables and tomato leek sauce at $13.95 and Grilled Fillet of Beef Tenderloin on wilted spinach, roasted garlic, portabello mushroom, potato cakes, asparagus and red wine sauce at $17.95.
For the appetizer, we decided to share a grilled eggplant with roasted garlic cloves, red pepper sauce, artichoke hearts and chopped tomatoes at $5.25. An excellent choice with each bite providing wonderful taste sensations.
Since no salads are served with the entrees, we also shared an Ashland baby greens, haricot vert, goat cheese, toasted almonds and balsamic vinaigrette salad at $4.50.
The salad was outstanding with just the right amount of dressing to cover but not drench and drown out the taste of the greens, goat cheese with the consistency of butter and a taste of its own, and the delightful crunch of a toasted almond to add to the taste delight.
We had been provided a loaf of herb bread and salted butter with the salad. Only a loaf of crusty French bread and unsalted butter could have made it better. Why can't one find good French or Italian bread in Atlanta??
For a main course, my companion had ordered the grilled pork tenderloin with roasted potato, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and green beans at $13.95.
The dish was a delight. The pork was grilled perfectly and the vegetables provided exactly the right complementing tastes. I had ordered the Pasta Paella. This dish was exceptionally delicious, the saffron broth working with all the other ingredients, chorizo, shrimp, chicken and mussels to provide a most delectable treat.
The food was hot and remained so until the last bite was devoured. I have not had any dish as good as this one for many, many years with each of the ingredients being cooked properly without drying out or losing taste during preparation.
For dessert, we ordered a creme caramel at $3.95 to share. The dish was as good as all the other food. Light and creamy with a scrumptious caramel sauce mixing with the taste of the custard. I also had coffee and my companion had hot tea with dessert.
The bill for three glasses of wine (yes, I couldn't resist another glass of the Shiraz), one appetizer, one salad, two main courses, one dessert, coffee and tea was $63.76 including tax to which I added 20% for a tipis considered very reasonable for the quality of the food and the service.
During the meal, Elliot provide nothing but excellent service, spacing the courses properly and ensuring that we did not need anything more to enjoy our meal to the fullest.
As we were leaving, I did note that the tables could have been spaced a little further apart to avoid having to disturb other diners to get to the door.
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