Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Basin, Saratoga

The Basin
High-class American cuisine in the mountains of Saratoga

Big Basin Way, the stretch of highway 9 just entering the mountains above Saratoga is home to a number of excellent restaurants, among them favorites like La Fondue and Masu Sushi. There are down-to-earth places like the Blue Rock Shoot cafe, as well as high-end restaurants like the Plumed Horse and many others with good reputations but which we've never managed to visit. The Basin sits somewhere in the middle, with good quality food, but not the expensive reputation. Some years ago, looking for a nice place for a Valentine's dinner, we ate there and enjoyed it, and since then, it's been a semi-regular Valentine's Day tradition for us.

We went back again this Friday (Saratoga's a bit out of the way to do on a weeknight) and remembered why we liked it so much. The two dining rooms are cozy and friendly, the staff always cheerful and helpful, and the food excellent. We were seated in the rear dining room, away from the bar, this time, which is quieter, but also therefore less conducive to having your own conversation when the table next to you is talking about having lived longer than their parents, getting drunk on the porch, the mess in Iraq, and how they'd switched from the Republican party in '04 and their friends did too. Still, that didn't detract from the meal.

One of the unexpected and unremembered surprises was the variety of drink options for us teetotalers. Our waitress rattled off a list of juices and spritzers, which were just soda water with flavored syrup and lime, but still sounded prepared enough that you'd imagine they actually had a fair number of people come in who didn't want wine. We got a cherry spritzer and a mango spritzer; the cherry was good, but a little strong. The mango was just right.

For an opener, we shared the Exotic Mushroom Soup and the Basin Salad, spring mix with pecans, apples, cheese, and a light vinaigrette dressing. The salad greens were crisp and went well with the toppings, the dressing providing just enough flavor without overpowering it. The soup was a puree, so no actual mushrooms were floating in it. It had a bit of spice to it and a good taste, though if I'd not known what it was, I'm not sure I would've said "mushroom."

We split a seared ahi tuna entree, served over pistachio rice with greens on top and a white truffle/carrot puree surrounding it. (They are very into the mushrooms at The Basin.) The tuna was top-notch, tender and flavorful, with light pepper on the outer edges. I liked the pistachio rice, too--it had pistachios scattered through it, which flavored the rice nicely. And the white truffle was very light in the puree, the carrots adding a sweet flavor. Together it was quite good, and splitting it left us both just full enough to be satisfied.

We passed on the desserts, though they sounded good, and took a nice walk down the street to the car, enjoying the sights we hadn't seen for a while. Any excuse to come walk along Big Basin Way in Saratoga is worth it, and The Basin is a better excuse than many.

1 comment:

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