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Santa Cruz, California
March 11, 2005
While the ambience is nice at Sweet Basil, the food will be the only thing you remember (well, that and the crazy artwork throughout the restaurant).
With a reservation, there is a good chance you will have to wait 10 to 15 minutes. Because the restaurant is a favorite, it is always packed.
When seated, you will be faced with a menu of hard choices. It took me a long time to figure out what to get last time I was there, but I settled on Kung Pao tuna with shrimp potstickers, baby bok choy, shiitakes, and stir-fried noodles ($33).
I started with a mixed organic green salad with Haystack Farms goat cheese crostini, golden raisin, pine nut, and caper relish, and sherry-mustard vinaigrette ($12). It was very good. The tuna was incredible--cooked perfectly, with a raw center. The boys at the table ordered Prime New York Strip with creamed spinach, potato celery-root gratin, crispy onion rings, and bordelaise sauce ($39), which they devoured and claimed was the best ever.
Do not dare skip Sweet Basil's specialty desseret--hot, sticky toffee pudding cake with fresh whipped cream and Myers's rum sauce ($9). It's sinful!
From journal Living it up over a mile up
by Truly Malin
New York, New York
July 26, 2001
The modern décor of the restaurant has a simple, elegant feel. My only real complaints were deafening noise and a nervous waiter who seemed terrified by the prospect of spending the evening with seven women dressed to the nines and ready to party. His fellow waitrons noticed his distress, however, and before long we had a staff of four catering to our every whim. Sweet Basil is a great place to celebrate. The hostess found out that were having a bachelorette weekend and got a cute male regular at the bar to stop by our table claiming to be a stripper - which was much funnier and less embarrassing than a visit from a real stripper. Hours later, after dinner, dessert, and grappa, when our party of seven outnumbered the remaining staff, we met the chef and bartenders, who offered us complimentary sherry.
Wine figures prominently in the Sweet Basil experience. The entranceway wall is dotted with a decade worth of awards from Wine Spectator magazine. Wine can also be found tucked into the sauces that grace appetizers and entrees, like a grilled pork chop in red wine reduction, or truffle and shiitake potstickers in a merlot leek sauce. Naturally we had wine with dinner. We're all Cabernet fanatics, but when keeping expenses down, a $150 Stag's Leap is out of the question. Instead, we splurged on two Napa favorites, a '97 ZD and a Paradigm. The ZD was cheaper and much more interesting: a full, ripe flavor, with toast and oak accents as well as hints of plum and chocolate.
Service was slow at first, so we were grateful when our appetizers arrived and every one was a winner. Squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta in a balsamic reduction was heavenly. Both sesame tuna tartare and warm lobster salad with corn blinis were amazing. A few standout entrees were the orange chili glazed tuna, and the aforementioned pork chop served with a heavy but intriguingly smoky sticky rice spring roll.
And ahh, dessert … why pick one when they have a Dessert Sampler plate? When supplemented by the Chocolate Tasting, it's perfect for sharing. Their signature sticky toffee pudding cake with rum sauce melted in the mouth. A berry tart in a hazelnut shell was the ideal mixture of sweet and tart. And then there was the Holy Trinity of chocolate: chocolate profiterole, flourless chocolate cake, and chocolate pate. Must be tasted to be believed.
Don't miss a lunch or dinner at Sweet Basil whether you're in Vail to ski or to sunbathe. It's a real gem.
From journal Summer on Vail Mountain
by TRAVELPRO guide
September 18, 2001
A bit of James Beard and New York came to Vail recently when Beard's menu from a celebration dinner at his New York restaurant was recreated by Sweet Basil's Chef Bruce Yim.
The talented Vail chef recently hosted a dinner in New York as part of the "Great Regional Chefs of America" dinner. To celebrate the honor bestowed upon Chef Yim and Sweet Basil, the Vail restaurant served the same James Beard menu to guests at a special dinner party.
From many fancy appetizers and salads to the grand finale of honey lavender cake with delectable cream/wine sauce, it was a grand evening of fine food served on elegant plate presentation and vintage wines poured with each course at a great restaurant.
I particularly applauded the warm lobster salad with fresh sweet corn blini, roast stuffed pheasant and Colorado lamb chops with a upright potato filled with rich cream sauce. All guests were given recipes from the gala dinner. Here’s one for the roast pheasant with a rice stuffing recipe from Yim’s grandmother.
ROAST STUFFED PHEASANT WITH WATERCRESS AND GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE
4 4-oz pheasant breasts
4 sheets spring roll wrappers
4 oz shitake mushroom, diced
1/2 diced yellow onion
6 strips bacon, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 T chopped fresh ginger
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 c. soy sauce
2 T oil
¼ c. jasmine, long grain rice
½ c. sweet short grain rice
1 ¾ c. water
Rinse rices together, add water and steam in rice cooker.
Preheat large sauté pan; add oil, mushrooms, bacon, onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté until golden brown, then set aside to cool. When rice is cooked, place in the mixing bowl and add shitake mixture. Add soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. Place a small amount of rice on a seasoned pheasant breast; wrap each breast with a spring roll wrapped that is brushed with a little beaten egg to seal the edge. Then brush each wrap with melted butter and place on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
P 2 – Sweet Basil’s Beard dinner
2 T. green peppercorns
4 sliced shallots
2 c. brandy
1 c. condensed milk
3 c. veal demi sauce
In a 2 qt. saucepan, place green peppercorn, shallots and brandy over high heat. Reduce the brandy by ¾. Add condensed milk and reduce by ¼. Add demi sauce and reduce by ¼. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and season. Please the pheasant on a bed of lightly sautéed watercress. Spoon the sauce around the pheasant.
From journal VAIL - summer and winter