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Basil Pizzeria in Crown Heights - Review

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PotatoPuff Nov 3, 2010 05:23 PM

Last night my fiance took me to Basil. Full disclosure: as a Baal Teshuva, I have some pretty high standards for restaurants. The ambiance was good, but a bit too crowded. However, the nice hostess put us at the most secluded table in the place - amazing! The only complaint was that it is very cold in the resto. The decor is excellent and the place is very clean.

The food was fantastic. The waitress was honest and asked if we wanted to have our pizza delivered first since it would be done way before the pasta (we said yes). We had the "margarita", which had pesto on it. It was fabulous except for the parmesan cheese (granted I'm holding the cheese to non-kosher standards).

We had the seashells pasta (peas, mushrooms, tomatoes). They make all of their own pasta. It was remarkably well balanced, and the peas were the freshest I've had in years. The only problem was that it was served lukewarm.

For dessert we had the lavender dusted funnel cake with basil ice cream. The funnel cake was amazing, but could have used more lavandar. The basil ice cream was clearly high quality, very creamy without having an overpowering flavor. They give you a very small portion of the ice cream, but it was very satiating.

The major drawback of the meal was not getting bread. It seemed like it would have rounded out the experience alot.

Overall, I give them major credit for creativity and pushing the limits of the relatively homogenous kosher dining scene. The food was fantastic, and I think with time they will round out the minor flaws. I will definitly be going back, even though it is an hour away!

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    daphnar RE: PotatoPuff Nov 4, 2010 12:04 PM

    I've been there twice - once for lunch and once for dinner. They had the same menu. Both the risotto and gnocchi were fabulous. I can't say enough about the delicious salmon carpaccio - it was perfectly prepared with the nuts, beets, and sea salt providing the perfect counterbalance of flavors. Over all highly highly recommended. Delicious. I wish my local dairy restaurants were half as good.

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      BigRedFoodieDoc RE: PotatoPuff Nov 5, 2010 09:43 AM

      I had the opportunity to eat there last night, and felt compelled to weigh in. I had read the article in the NY Times but was anxious to try the food rather than address its relevance as sociological experiment. On walking in, saw a packed Thurs night house, and thought- oh joy, where else can I eat in this neighborhood? I may have mumbled this aloud, as a well-dressed gentleman by the bar (who I realized later was the owner) assured us we'd get seated soon and its worth the wait. Not 5 minutes later, we were ushered to a table in what seemed to be their annex, a second quieter dining area. Lost some of the rush of being in the main room and watching the wood-burning pizza oven at work, but a bit more refined and relaxed dining experience. Again, less than 5 minutes to be seated, attentive, helpful wait staff, affordable and decent wine menu, and on to the food. Salmon carpaccio was fantastic- clean, fresh, unexpected flavor combos. Then came pizza from that wood-burning oven- asparagus, ricotta, golden beets and jalapeno on a thin, crackling, flavorful crust. Was perhaps not as hot as it could've been, perhaps due to transit from the other room, but still fantastic. And finally, saffron risotto with parmesan, wild mushrooms, peas and white asparagus. Wow. Creamy, smoky, earthy fabulousness. Things went so well that had to try their desert, particularly due to the fact that they're made in-house by their pastry chef. Yes- a kosher restaurant with a pastry chef. Pumpkin panna cotta and a creme brulee trio followed soon after to close things out. Overall, aside from being totally worth the hike to Crown Hts, one of the best kosher restaurant experiences in awhile and look forward to exploring the rest of the innovative menu.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BigRedFoodieDoc
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        njkosher RE: BigRedFoodieDoc Aug 26, 2011 06:45 AM

        I finally got out of NJ, and headed to Basil last night arriving around 6.20pm. We were a party of 7 and did not have to wait at all, and it looked about half full. I am not a dairy person, and the only cheese I eat has to be melted and Mozzarella, although truth be told if it's good pizza and they have mixed other stuff in and I can accommodate it.
        Wait staff was attentive, and brought out two bowls of fresh crispy bread with a little container of olive oil. Was recommended the Basil fries as an appetizer, which had I noticed the comment about Parmesan, would have skipped, but it was delicious. Fries were crispy, and the Parmesan was flavorful and not overpowering, and the garlic truffle mayo was prefect for dipping. My wife had the caesar salad, and you could definitely taste the anchovies in the dressing. Most places seem to dismiss that aspect of the dressing. The tuna tartare looked very good as did the eggplant parmesan salad.
        Now to the pizza - I had the peper and red onion with anchovies. Nice big pieces of anchovy, real salty, thin crust, outstanding. Wife had the parmesan & white asparagus and the smoked paprika gave the whole pizza a smokiness that that I have never had on a pizza, and it was great. The other pizzas looked really good.
        I was toying with having a second pizza, but decided to go for the funnel cake with the basil ice cream. I was apprehensive about the ice cream, but it really works. The funnel cake is really a glorified donut, but having seen them done at fairs, I figured I have to try it. Was a good end to the meal. Wife had the sorbet.
        Wait staff was great, helpful and attentive.
        I also bought two croissants, plain and chocolate, which I have just finished for breakfast with a cup of coffee. Was advised to warm up in microwave for a few seconds, both delicious, and I think I am good until Shabbat dinner tonight.
        I'm glad I dont live nearby, otherwise I would scrap making my own pizza, and would be there often.

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        AdinaA RE: PotatoPuff Jan 14, 2014 01:11 PM

        Have I mentioned lately how much I like this place? It has for a while now been on my list of places to eat if I have some reason to be in that part of Brooklyn. But after a recent lunch of a superb kabocha squash soup with wonderful bread, I think that I really do have to notch it up into the destination restaurant category.

        1. j
          JackieR RE: PotatoPuff Mar 26, 2014 03:19 PM

          I had lunch here today. Second time. The food was good to excellent but the service, as noted by others, horrible, especially for the price.

          We arrived, two people from a party of three and were told that we couldn't have a table until the third person arrived, even though we explained that we would be ordering immediately and she was only having coffee. Several minutes later they gave the same table to a party of two. We ordered an asparagus soup with preserved lemons and a poached egg. I really liked it and am planning to try to replicate it at home. But the soup and our main course pizza arrived together (after a substantial wait) so by the time we go to the pizza (which was okay but not remarkable) it was cold.

          Asked for bread, were told they don't have any. (Really? What do they make sandwiches on?) Waited for water. Waited to have our soup bowls cleared. Had to ask for plates for the pizza.

          I can't say I wont ever be back because they are doing more interesting things with food than most kosher places. But I would hate to think that they assume they can mistreat customers because we will be back for more.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JackieR
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            cheesecake17 RE: JackieR Mar 27, 2014 04:45 PM

            I've heard similar reactions from friends.

            The main reason I haven't been there yet is the wait time. I've heard on Thursday nights the wait can be very long, and they don't take reservations. Just not really interested to pay a babysitter and end up waiting for hours...

          2. queenscook RE: PotatoPuff May 4, 2014 09:28 AM

            We were thinking of going to Basil tonight, as we've never been. When we schlep to Brooklyn, it's for Pardes. (By the way, had another fabulous meal there last Sunday. And if Chef Moshe is reading this, great apologies again for the trouble we caused after the meal.) So, I looked at Basil's menu online. My husband is allergic to fish, and neither of us likes cheese. I noticed that there seem to be perhaps one or two dishes without cheese, and those were fish dishes. Can anyone who is familiar with the place comment on my thinking that it's not a wise choice? It seems odd to me that they wouldn't be more dishes that were just pasta, vegetables, or other things which were not fish or cheese. The kabocha squash soup sounded interesting, but I don't know that it would be enough for a meal. Advice?

            Also, is it true that they do not take reservations?

            14 Replies
            1. re: queenscook
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              AdinaA RE: queenscook May 4, 2014 09:46 AM

              My husband also doesn't like cheese, but he loves Basil and is always looking for a pretext to eat there. (Although we get to Pardes more often) On a recent visit, he ordered to the kabocha squash soup (which was splendid) and a pizza or flat bread not involving cheese but loaded with vegetables, I don't remember what it was called. But he enjoyed it thoroughly. The soup and the vegetable flatbread combined, however, were more than he could eat. Not sure that we've ever been there in the evening, the menu changes for supper, but but he does enjoy the lunches.

              1. re: AdinaA
                queenscook RE: AdinaA May 4, 2014 10:51 AM

                Thanks for the info, Adina. I noticed on their site, after I had asked in my post, that they do not take reservations. My husband is game to go, based on what you said, so I called to find out what they might suggest as a good time to go without having to wait for a long time. I was very surprised that their "contact" number is merely a recording, without any way to actually ask a question. Aside from this being what I would consider a poor business practice (people have all sorts of questions they might want to ask before going to a place, even aside from questions of making reservations), it doesn't help me in knowing if we should make the shlep from Queens, and if so, what the best time would be to do so. Can anyone advise us on that issue?

                1. re: queenscook
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                  speedymoose RE: queenscook May 4, 2014 04:37 PM

                  I have gone for weekday lunch several times and never had a problem with service or crowding. But I'm not sure how practical that is for you if you're traveling from Queens.

                  1. re: speedymoose
                    queenscook RE: speedymoose May 4, 2014 05:28 PM

                    Actually, we went today. We got there about 4:40, and had no trouble finding parking (which was another concern of mine), nor getting a table. An hour later would have been much tougher.

                    As for the food, we both really liked the kabocha squash soup. We were less taken with our other food; some sort of black pasta for my husband, I had a "small plate" of pecan crusted snapper. For dessert, I got the lavender-dusted funnel cake, but tasted no lavender flavor at all. The butter pecan ice cream which came along with it was fine, but I don't need to travel to Crown Heights for butter pecan ice cream. (I had a choice of four flavors . . . I considered the basil flavored, but I really don't love the flavor of basil. Had it been rosemary, there would have been no question.) Hubby chose the cheesecake, which was fine, but I really think the one I make is better. Oh, and fries. They were tasty.

                    I wouldn't put it in the category of Pardes, though it's a step up from lots of other choices, I guess. In the long run, I wouldn't rush back, but my husband said he'd be interested in trying it again. It's really not that far; it only took about a half hour to get home . . . maybe a bit more to get there because of a bit of traffic.

                    1. re: queenscook
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                      cheesecake17 RE: queenscook May 5, 2014 06:54 AM

                      I live in Brooklyn, but I've still never been. The no reservations policy is what's holding me back. Friends of mine went one night for dinner only to leave because of a 2.5 hour wait.

                      1. re: cheesecake17
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                        AdinaA RE: cheesecake17 May 5, 2014 07:15 AM

                        Try going early, on a Sunday if you have, you know, a job or something that keeps you form eating at 5 on a weekday. When people are willing to wait 2.5 hours for a restaurant, that's a reason to go.

                        Maybe the food professionals on this list can explain why some restaurants choose not to take reservations. At a guess: people fail to show leaving empty tables, it's extra labor, there's a vibe created when people are willing to wait in line. But surely there are good business reasons.

                        1. re: AdinaA
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                          cheesecake17 RE: AdinaA May 5, 2014 07:20 AM

                          I'm sure there are definitely reasons for not having reservations, and I understand that.

                          It's not the kind of place I'd like to take my toddler, so Sundays are out. From what friends have told me, lunchtime on Sundays can be pretty busy too.

                          One day...we'll get there!

                          1. re: cheesecake17
                            queenscook RE: cheesecake17 May 5, 2014 08:17 AM

                            Actually, I was surprised how many toddlers and young children were there. Now, the prices are a bit higher than I'd want to pay for food for a two-year-old, but there had to be at least seven or eight very young children there.

                            I wasn't thrilled with the no reservations policy, and even less thrilled with the fact that they do not have a phone number that connects you with an actual person, to ask about how crowded it is, etc. Still, the service was very helpful (unlike the experience related above by JackieR), but as I detailed above, I was not blown away by the food.

                            1. re: queenscook
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                              cheesecake17 RE: queenscook May 5, 2014 08:19 AM

                              Mines 3 and she's very well behaved in restaurants. It's just that we like some dining experiences to be kid free. (Am I mean?)

                              I've heard two other meh reactions, so I'm not running there.

                              1. re: cheesecake17
                                queenscook RE: cheesecake17 May 5, 2014 08:25 AM

                                No, I understand the desire to be kid-free. My pet peeve these days--and I realize I'm totally showing my advanced age here (!!)--is how people can't seem to sit and enjoy a meal simply with the person or people they came with; they have to be on a device connecting with other people elsewhere or the outside world in general. What happened to enjoying the experience you are in? I know, I know . . . it's a new world, and old ideas like mine just don't fly anymore.

                                1. re: queenscook
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                                  cheesecake17 RE: queenscook May 5, 2014 08:31 AM

                                  Haha that's my husband's let peeve. When we go out with friends the rule is no phones on the table.

                                  1. re: cheesecake17
                                    queenscook RE: cheesecake17 May 5, 2014 09:03 AM

                                    Just to annoy me, my husband insists on bentching from his phone!

                                    1. re: queenscook
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                                      cheesecake17 RE: queenscook May 5, 2014 09:12 AM

                                      That's pretty funny.

                                      We were at Chagall Bistro recently and a table next to us kept taking (blinding) pictures. So irritating

                                  2. re: queenscook
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                                    DevorahL RE: queenscook May 8, 2014 08:48 AM

                                    I'm a bit younger than you, and I feel the same way. I heard of a great game to play when dining with a group of friends: everyone put their phone in a pile or basket in the middle of the table. First one to touch the pile and check their phone has to pick up the tab!

              2. tamarw RE: PotatoPuff Jun 29, 2014 07:17 PM

                My turn! I finally went to Basil with my husband and two kids in tow. It was a very kid friendly restaurant and overall it was a good experience.

                We ordered the truffle fries since so many people said it was worth it. I have to admit, the mayo was better with the fries than the ketchup and we ate it all up. It arrived earlier than everything, though, and we waited a few more minutes until the pizza, followed by the gnocchi, and the calzone (a seasonal special) arrived. I made a request for the risotto which wasn't on the menu, and the server who took my order didn't sound familiar with it, so she consulted with the menu, at which point I said "maybe you can ask someone else? I hear it's a staple here," and she asked two other servers, both of whom also seemed completely clueless as to whether the restaurant has ever served risotto there ever before. I started to get worried that this staff was new. Sadly, they said there was none. Maybe they stopped serving it in 2010? Disappointing.

                My kids both loved the pizza (we went with plain - my kids are picky), as did we. The gnocchi was quite good - it was sweet in this cheese sauce, and it comes with cooked tomatoes, which offsets the sweetness with that savory.

                I'm a huge fan of calzones, so instead of the risotto I planned to eat, I went with this $22 behemoth. Honestly, it was bigger than my 2 year old! It was good, but probably our least favorite - inside, it came with a spicy sauce (which I loved), spinach, some broccoli, mushrooms, and cheese. (My favorite calzone is in Sara's in Florida, and this one has yet to beat that.) My husband didn't like the stringiness of the broccoli and spinach pieces in his teeth. I noticed that part of the calzone was missing any filling - despite so much dough, the filling seemed lacking. It was also burned in certain parts, so it was hardly ideal to eat those parts. However, we finished it and still enjoyed it.

                We ended up buying the lavender dusted funnel cake with basil ice cream. It was wonderful - I think that was the first time I ever had funnel cake. The basil ice cream, like others said, worked! It's a sweet basil-flavored ball of goodness. It definitely is a small portion. I would have preferred more, bearing in mind I had to share.

                Service notes: We got water almost immediately after we were seated, but shortly after we got our food, the restaurant started filling up and we weren't able to get any water from anyone. We asked one of the other waitresses for water and she totally forgot about us. We didn't get our first refill until after they cleared our plates (40 minutes later?), but after that, we had no issues getting refills.

                I'm still trying to find out if the servers didn't know about risotto because they were clueless, or because they really don't serve it anymore. I'd have loved to try it!

                10 Replies
                1. re: tamarw
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                  DeisCane RE: tamarw Jul 2, 2014 05:42 AM

                  Fries are always better with mayo, Tamar. :-)

                  1. re: DeisCane
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                    CloggieGirl RE: DeisCane Jul 2, 2014 06:26 AM

                    Even better if that mayo comes with either peanut sauce or curry ketchup.

                    1. re: DeisCane
                      bagelman01 RE: DeisCane Jul 2, 2014 09:08 AM

                      Months in England and they haven't converted you to malt vinegar with your chips?

                      I don't eat either ketchup or may, just salt and pepper

                      1. re: bagelman01
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                        helou RE: bagelman01 Jul 2, 2014 11:51 AM

                        Ever had malt vinegar with your fried fish (as in fish 'n' chips)? Excellent. And much fewer calories than tartar sauce. (I know, I know, if I'm eating fried food it's not exactly a low calorie meal.)

                        I don't shop at Shop Rite very much but they're the ones who carry the Heinz malt vinegar around here, and it's worth going out of my way to get it.

                        1. re: helou
                          bagelman01 RE: helou Jul 2, 2014 01:51 PM

                          Yes, I am partial to Heinz Malt Vinegar on Fish and Chips. Again, as I don't eat mayo, I don't use tartar sauce. If I can't get the malt vinegar then I just squeeze on some fresh lemon.

                        2. re: bagelman01
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                          DeisCane RE: bagelman01 Jul 3, 2014 01:20 AM

                          I have had malt vinegar on the fish, but not the chips. :-)

                          And I've always liked mayo on my fries, maybe because my parents were in Holland while I was in utero.

                          1. re: DeisCane
                            tamarw RE: DeisCane Jul 3, 2014 05:14 AM

                            It's funny - my husband insists upon eating tartar sauce with fish sticks, but I can't stand the pairing. I eat them with ketchup.

                            1. re: tamarw
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                              AdinaA RE: tamarw Jul 3, 2014 06:35 AM

                              I'm a purist. Salt.

                              1. re: tamarw
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                                helou RE: tamarw Jul 3, 2014 08:32 AM

                                Depends on the tartar sauce - there are lots of different recipes. Try sprinkling on some malt vinegar.

                          2. re: DeisCane
                            tamarw RE: DeisCane Jul 2, 2014 01:17 PM

                            I don't know if I can say that for *all* fries!

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