Everyone has their own experience of a good night at a restaurant – and a bad one. We all know what it’s like when things just aren’t going right: the server is late and unfriendly, the food is cold and poorly cooked, no one checks up on you but you’ve been out of a drink for 20 minutes… you know how it goes. You probably will avoid ever stepping foot in that place again.
And yet, when things are good, we often don’t notice because, well, that’s what we expect.
One Friday night, by the time I was signing the bill and standing up to leave, and as the servers smiled and waved a friendly goodbye, I realized the whole experience had been completely seamless at Basil Seasonal Dining.
It began with a sincere greeting at the door led to a prompt welcoming to our table, where our server attended to us with the ease of a true professional. A thoughtful wine list led to a 2014 meritage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and for a moment we were chewing licorice sticks in an old tobacco barn on a field of blackberries.
Each course arrived right on time, and each with its own creative flair. Warm, yeasty aromas of bread that seemed fresh out the oven set the stage with a delicate basil dipping sauce. A clever way to start, not only for the herbal namesake, but also for its color.
Basil is one of the greenest restaurants around – Carmel’s first to be green-certified. Hands-on owner Denis Boaro hopes he can set an example for new generations and other restaurants: “If everyone did these practices, it would make a huge impact on the world.”
Everything is as green as it gets, from the composting system to the paint on the walls.
Back to dinner, green came again, this time from a smoky, lemony pepper sauce that brought even more liveliness to big, juicy shrimp. And more of that hue from the Brussels sprout salad: razor-thin slices, raw and crunchy with added munch from toasted hazelnuts and ripe apple. It may have been too green with sprouts alone, but the mellow fat and sweet fruit complemented the faint bitterness.
How about the match made by mushrooms and pasta? It works well, especially when the pappardelle is made in-house and the mushrooms dance around in a red wine shallot sauce next to melt-in-your-mouth short rib ragout.
And there’s nothing like the buttery luxury of sweet polenta stacked on a fork with soft, slow-braised lamb. It’s almost too much indulgence, but then earthy broccolini cuts through all the creaminess.
Boaro recently brought on Chef Cameron Falls. Don’t expect menu changes anytime soon though, as Boaro is pretty happy with Basil the way it is.
Whoever is behind the scenes, expect excellence from the kitchen to the table. The only thing wrong with the entire night is that I was simply too full to order dessert.
That’s a good problem to have.
BASIL SEASONAL DINING San Carlos Between Ocean and Seventh, Carmel. 11:30am-9pm Sun-Thu; 11:30am-10pm Fri-Sat. 626-8226, basilcarmel.com