Basil's Legends in East Windsor
Well, after a few mentions in other posts, I figured I'd give this lamb chop grill restaurant a try. It's certainly easy to find - attached to the Days Inn where 33 meets the Turnpike.
The space is very nice and, if I didn't know I would never have guessed I was in the same building as a Days Inn.
Dinner got off to a good start with a nice, if expensive at $12, pomegranite martini kinda drink and a hot loaf of bread. Things progressed well with an order of Maple Horseradish wings. They were good and the sauce was different and tasty and also a good bargain at a dozen for $8.
Each entree comes with a choice of either soup or salad and I think I got the better choice with the soup. The salad was not bad, but the soup was a different take on the classic Greek lemon chicken broth. It had escarole, sausage, and chickpeas if maybe a little too much lemon.
So far so good, and had the meal ended there I would give Basil's a hearty recco. But the mains were yet to come. I had ordered the $35 American Rack of Lamb and my wife the house special Shrimp Liaison, or shrimp wrapped in bacon and then cooked. I was sooo looking forward to eating a lot of lamb chops and was hugely disappointed to find only three of them. They were good to be sure, but three chops is NOT a rack. As for the shrimp, they were a bit overdone. Even the sides weren't all that great with the creamed spinach the best of the bunch. I'd have gladly given up a side for another chop.
I think the way to go here may be to have some wings followed by the half pound bacon cheseburger or the souvlaki sandwich, both relative bargains. But I may have to start a Chowhound petition to ban the use of the word "rack" from any small order of ribs.
Here is a quick report on our first visit to Basil’s Legends. No lamb chops were eaten, so I will refrain from weighing in on that particular controversy.
Overall the food was good, though a bit heavy (and with a strong carnivore orientation). The service (on a Saturday night) left quite a bit to be desired, however.
We ordered a bottle of the Boutari Odé, a cabernet-agiorgitiko blend, which was good. The wine list overall was varied and reasonably-priced, although the only Greek representation was through various Boutaris.
We started with the grilled octopus, served with greens, tomato slices, and chunks of feta. It was good but not great. I continued with the “signature” soup, with chicken, escarole, spicy sausage, chick peas and shaved pecorino. It was quite good. Mrs MercerChow continued her lifelong quest to sample every Caesar salad on offer in the state of New Jersey.
My entrée was the pan-seared rib veal chop with an egg-lemon sauce heavily-laden with dill. The chop was big and cooked perfectly and the sauce was nice although they could have dialed back the dill without damaging the effect. Couscous and mixed vegetables on the side. Mrs MercerChow had the shrimp saganaki, which wasn’t much to look at but was quite tasty, with the shrimp done perfectly, and spinach and mixed vegetables on the side.
No room for anything else.
Now, about that service. It was both slow and confused. We sat for a good five minutes before menus were brought out and at least ten more before anyone showed up to take our drink orders. We ordered the wine and went ahead and ordered the food at the same time because we didn’t want to wait any longer. Post-octopus we were asked what sort of bread we would like. Soon after that a bowl of butter patties appeared but it was another ten minutes before the bread itself made its presence felt. Our server was sweet and whimsical, but not too experienced.
Bottom line: Despite the service issues we are glad we went because the meal itself was good. But I doubt we would make the journey again. Basil’s Legends is about a half-hour drive from our home. There are too many better options closer.
I've continued to eat regularly at Basil's and order the American lamb chops.
Last night Basil asked if he could speak to me for a moment, then took me back into the kitchen where I watched him at his butcher's block, trimming and chopping a rack of American lamb chops while he explained to me the pricing and portioning of the entree. At first I thought this was because I had recently asked why he had gone from four chops to three, but as he spoke I soon realized that he had probably found this thread, and was addressing the points some of you all brought up. I don't think he was doing this so that I would report back about it, but rather because I'm a loyal customer and he wanted to clear up any misconceptions I might have.
I should point out that my status as an impartial Hound is important to me. I have no desire to be any restaurant's representative or advocate here, but only to be honest about my tastes and opinions. But I since I now find myself in a position to address some of the questions people have raised, I might as well do it.
A little Googling confirmed Basil's main two points:
1. His Colorado Lamb is considered the best available:
2. It's very expensive:
On top of the high price, he showed me how he trims at least a pound of fat off each rack.
He maintained that there is nothing inaccurate about the way the chops are advertised on his menu, which does not feature a "rack of lamb" but rather "rack of lamb chops" by which he means rack-of-lamb chops, i.e. chops from the rack, as opposed to "porterhouse chops" (which he also carries) or "loin chops." The words "rack of" do not appear as part of the menu item itself but rather in the description of the item that comes after the prices.
He said he would like to continue to do four chops, but since he was losing money he had to cut it back to three.
Though I was disappointed to see him go down to three chops, I still found myself ordering them all the time. To me, they are the single best menu item available in the area. The only thing comparable in terms of excellence and uniqueness would be a DeLorenzo's Tomato Pie. The two restaurants represent for me an Idealized Central New Jersey, a place where food can taste as good or better than it does at the top places in New York.
Why shouldn't the best of things be available in New Jersey too?
re: Paul N
Paul – Come on, “rack of lamb” versus “rack of lamb chops” is at best sparring in semantics. Anyone reading “rack” is going to expect half of a lamb’s rib cage. Why doesn’t he simply state, “three rib lamb chops” if he’s interested in truth in advertising? I still think he’s trying to scam people.
This seemed to be what was bothering Basil. That anyone would think he was being dishonest when he prides himself as a restaurateur on giving people good value.
If what's at issue is the way something is worded, we're having a semantic argument one way or the other. So... Here's how it appears on the menu
"American Lamb Chops $35." Now if I ordered "lamb chops" - call me crazy - but I'd assume I was getting lamb chops. Even if the word "rack" appeared in the lengthy description that followed - especially at a place that serves porterhouse chops too. When I order the porterhouse lamb chops, should I be angry that I don't get a porterhouse steak, which is generally what people mean when they talk about a "porterhouse?"
Now, English is not Basil's first language, but how SHOULD he describe the American lamb chops if he can't tell people they're from the rack? It might be clearer if he wrote: "Lamp chops from the rack-of-lamb section of the lamb." But what I would recommend is that he change the name of the dish from "American Lamb Chops" to "Colorado Lamb Rack Chops" and leave it at that. Then foodies will know they're getting Colorado Lamb chops which, assuming they're rack-of-lamb chops, sell for $45 in steakhouses in New York, Chicago, San Diego, and LA, and other people might be able to disregard the word "rack" and realize they're getting lamb chops.
re: Paul N
I'm sorry, but from the menu online and the same one in house:
All Seasons Rack of Lamb Chops. 4 Sauces “Tarragon Aioli Sauce”- “Balsamic Glaze”
“Mint-Garlic Aioli Sauce" & “Chipotle-Mint Glaze.”
Why have four sauces for three chops anyway?
And, had I known, I'd have ordered the:
Basil’s Mixed Grille
New Zealand $30. American $35.
2 Lamb Chops, 2 Shrimp Liaison and 8 oz. NY Strip Steak
to share with my wife so we would have only had to eat two of those overdone shrimp.
Funny, but when I first left I was thinking of giving them another try and just ordering burgers and sandwiches, but now I am thinking maybe not.
Again, that description comes after the menu item, which reads
American Lamb Chops $35
You have to understand there are more than one kind of lamb chop. The word "rack" is necessary somewhere in the description.
It's not the way I would write the menu, but it's not my restaurant.
My only point is I don't believe he's trying to rip anyone off and, based on my research, I don't consider the item overpriced.
Uh oh. I've been going to Basil's for years and always got at least four chops with my order (actually I got 5 because my wife wold only eat three of hers.) But recently I ordered take out and found myself with only three. I thought it was a mistake. The New Zealand chops ($25) always came with four pieces too but weren't as meaty (or quite as tender) as the American.
I'll check next time eat there. If there are anything less than 4 I'll ask him about it and report back.
re: Paul N
portion wise, the pic on the site is pretty accurate for what I use to get all the time (the presentation is not). The chops are cut thick, so there are often two bones per chop - but four individual cuts.
If he's cut back to three cuts permanently, that's a crime for $35.
The lamb, for my money, the best around.
re: Paul N
I was wondering about this place since I am going to move to Manalapan and will be driving by Basil everyday.
$35 for 3 chops is ridiculous... I would expect to pay that much in New York City but not for a location next to a Day's Inn off Rt 33. I think I am better off getting a rack from Costco and roasting it myself.
I dropped by Basil's to pick up a burger (excellent and $7) and asked about the usual portion of the American Lamb chops. They said three or four depending on the size, since the racks vary.
The New Zealand Chops are always an impressive portion and $25 dollars - but they're normal sized lamb chops,as opposed to the American which are much larger.
But later one of the employees also mentioned how much food costs have been going up and I started to wonder if tht had something to do with the smaller american lamb portion I got the previous time.
Maybe to adapt to this, there's now a $25 American Lamb Chop porterhouse cut on the menu... I just had the burger so I didn't have a look at the portion.
All in all, Basil's is a rare flower in a culinary desert, so I'll remain a booster, even if it means switching to the New Zealand chops, which are very good, but not quite the treat the American's are.
Seal – Boy are you right! A rack of lamb is eight ribs, seven at a minimum. Three’s not even a half a rack. I think I’d have sent them back and left and let him call the cops if he wanted to. As far as I’m concerned it’s like ordering a dozen clams and getting three because that’s his definition of a dozen. That’s outrageous to charge $35 without telling you up front that it was for only three ribs. I’m sorry it was at your expense but I’m glad you posted because I was going to give them a try in the next couple of weeks.