At the edge of Crown Height’s Jewish neighborhood, we walked through the tall glass paned doors of Basil Pizza and Wine Bar (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777). We were greeted by the lovely homey smells coming from their large wood oven, clearly center staged by design, partnered with an open bar and cooking area. Soft relaxing Latin music permeated a high vaulted room adorned with 13 honey jar shaped glass lanterns hanging at variegated heights back-dropped by a glass fronted honey comb wine casement. Marble top tables and dark rustic wooden chairs filled the room commodiously, seating 45 comfortably.
The pizza and wine bar opened its doors in late February of this year. Just a few months in, with an extensive gourmet dairy menu created by his predecessor, Chef Adam (who started his culinary training in Italy’s Costa D’Amalfi – then the restaurant’s sous-chef – was suddenly asked to take the helm as chef de cuisine. Like the young Luciano Pavoratti in February 1965 – who was asked to replace the regular tenor – in an evening’s fateful performance (Donizzetti’s Lucia de Lamermoor) at the Greater Miami Opera, young Chef Adam stepped up to the plate prevailing successfully without missing a single high note apparently, for he served up dish after dish of consistently delicious Basil favorites.
We began this, our latest restaurant adventure, with their Wild Mushroom Pizza made with Goat Cheese, Mozzarella and Truffle Oil, we took a side dish of their signature Basil Fries, sprinkled with Fresh Parmesan aside a Garlic-Truffle Mayo Dip- clearly – not for the faint hearted. Both were delicious. The thin crusted pizza dough (made with imported Italian flour) was terrific, as were the wild mushrooms and goat cheese topping. CS predictably downed a respectable number of fries, loving the crispy strips dipped in truffle mayo. We both opted for Tishbi’s Chenin Blanc to accompany our meal. It was perfect for the table fare and the balmy summer afternoon. I had a respectable Arugula and Beets Salad topped with medallions of warm goat cheese sprinkled with pine nuts and a truffle vinaigrette.
CS, gnocchi Gnostic that he is, couldn’t help but devour the Goat Cheese Gnocchi Gratin rich with Tomatoes, Spinach and Parmesan Bread Crumbs. He found it flavorful, authentic Italian Campagna, done to perfection! We sampled three more mains; spinach ricotta dumplings, striped bass, and a saffron risotto. I went for their Striped Bass, with Charred Fennel, Pea Risotto and Meyer Lemon Cream. Presentation was outstanding as you can see from the pictures below (we had a very, very tough time settling on only three photos of the dishes!). The charred fennel was set like a sail atop a perfectly cooked striped bass a sea in a gustable green pea risotto. The Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings with Melted Mozzarella were ambrosial- especially with the enfolded Tomatoes Roasted for 24 hours in Balsamic Vinegar, fennel seeds and just the right touch of chili flakes. Basil buys mozzarella curd and stretches it on location, enhancing the flavor that much more. The Saffron Risotto with Forest Mushrooms, Grilled White Asparagus, was quite aromatic. The forest mushrooms and white asparagus were savory & toothsome, though at this point we were quite full.
We’ll have to come back and meet their pastry chef, Ehud Ezra; word on the street is that he is an amazing talent. A graduate of the Institute for Culinary Education, he trained at Oceana in Manhattan and was Pastry Chef for several years at Whole Foods (among other prestigious establishments), before coming to Basil, we tasted his Meyer Lemon Ricotta Cheese Cake served with Turkish Fig Puree and Melon. He’s there at 5:00 am preparing his croissants and other pastries, opening for breakfast service at 7:30 am. Chef Adam also treated us to a tasting of his home-made colorful Sorbet Trio and Basil Ice Cream (made from basil, you read it right!). Yummmm!
Sitting on the cusp of this Lubavitch neighborhood, Basil stands at the edge of new cuisine and ambiance territory. The reluctant humble yet flight worthy fledgling chef and his team run a successful operation with the help of their warm friendly manager Clara Perez, whose respect and reverie for the Lubavitch community is admirable. The convergence of crossed cultures amongst their staff and the harmonious blend of clientele dining together with Basil’s good food its nucleus, is nothing short of chevlei mashiach amazing. The obstacles were many; it shouldn’t work but it does, remarkably so! Some places are just plain blessed that way.