On date night, we got in a fight about Chili’s.
When I get hungry, I get mad. For as long as I can remember, anger and hunger have always walked hand in hand. The whole world splinters into obstacles that stand between me and food. And all I can think is “why are you preventing me from eating?”
This is why I stared at Jake with curiosity when he, not I, became angry-hungry. Normally, he is the even-keeled one, but on this evening, he became angry-hungry just short of a Hulk smash. Or tears.
We headed towards the West Acres mall with Jake fuming behind the wheel. As we drove past the usual chain restaurants, we observed full parking lots and people waiting for tables on benches outside in the cold. I didn’t want to pick the restaurant until he started veering towards Chili’s. Then I started to care.
I really didn’t want to eat at Chili’s. I’ve only been there twice. The first time was bad while the second time was fine, albeit completely deep fried. I whined and pouted. I threatened to walk to a different restaurant. Jake was just hungry. He used to eat at Chili’s with his family growing up and thought I was entering food snob territory. Then, we both felt bad and he veered into Basies Restaurant and Lounge. I’m still now sure how we went from Chili’s to Basies, but at least we were seated immediately.
Basies is located in the Ramada Plaza Hotel. Jake once enjoyed a meal here with coworkers. At first glance, the restaurant’s appeared banquet hall-ish and a live band was performing a mix of country, blue grass and lounge music. The music was loud, but just short of drowning out conversation.
We don’t frequently dine at restaurants that sell food a la carte. This is why I agonized over my dinner selection and became stuck between an $8 salad or a $7 vegetable side. All I wanted was some protein and a small side of vegetables. There weren’t many options that combined both, besides pasta, a dinner salad or a three course meal that included a dessert I didn’t particularly want. I ordered the appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops, $15, with the side of asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, $7. Jake chose the three course dinner option, $48, that included his choice of a house salad, an entree of fillet mignon with asparagus and mashed potatoes, and his choice of dessert, creme brulee.
Jake ordered artichoke dip to start.
The large ramekin of dip was served with plenty of grilled bread. The flavor of the dip tasted well-balanced, even with the melted cheese, and we enjoyed it’s slight kick of heat.
Our server walked by with a bowl of creamed spinach. He said there was a kitchen mix-up and asked if we wanted it for free, adding he hated wasting food. We gladly accepted. I’ve never eaten traditional steakhouse creamed spinach and this version seemed a little different. It was more like sauteed spinach in cream, rather than the thicker, casserole-like variety. I often saute spinach like this at home, so I enjoyed the dish. It was nicely seasoned and the cream tasted of garlic, though I could have done with less of the sauce. Still, it was free and generous of our server to offer it to us.
After the dip, our server brought us a bread basket. The warm rolls were crusty and came with honey butter. We didn’t dig too deeply into the basket so we could leave room for the entrees.
My scallops were large and tasted fresh. They were cooked nicely and free of grit. I scraped most of the mustard-caper sauce from the scallops. It didn’t taste bad, but struck me as heavy and I really just wanted to taste the scallops.
I also scraped most of the Hollandaise sauce from the asparagus. Again, it wasn’t that the sauce tasted bad, but it just seemed too rich. Between the artichoke dip, creamed spinach, and creamy sauce on the scallops, I had reached my threshold. I yearned for some lemon.
The asparagus spears may have been steamed. The were a little dry, unseasoned, and the bottom of the stems were woody. I felt annoyed that the kitchen forgot or didn’t know they were supposed to remove the woody ends from a seven dollar side of asparagus.
On the other hand, Jake’s asparagus fared much better.
The asparagus spears accompanying his steak were seasoned, lightly grilled, and free of woody stems.
His steak was cooked to the requested medium rare. It was tender, nicely seasoned, and scented by the cedar plank on which it sat. We really enjoyed the garlicky mashed potatoes which struck a nice balance in texture and seasoning.
The creme brulee struck me as odd.
Our server asked if we would like the bottom of the creme brulee heated or cool. He also offered us a choice of plain, raspberry, lime, or blueberry-flavored sugars to be bruleed table side. We chose half plain and half raspberry.
After he bruleed the ramekin with a tiny torch, the sugar still glowed. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to let the sugar continue to burn. I blew them out and extinguished the rest of the glowing embers with my finger tip. Unfortunately, the sugar didn’t exactly melt. One of the best parts of eating creme brulee is cracking the thin, glassy sheet of sugar that forms after it’s torched. The sugar on this creme brulee was too course to melt. It remained in crunchy, burnt granules. The custard didn’t taste bad, but its texture was firmer than I like.
In summary, the dinner ranged from hits to misses. The artichoke satisfied any guilty pleasure cravings, and Basies can clearly cook a steak. Despite the number of hits, there were enough inconsistencies to make me question the value of our meal.
How often does an a la carte restaurant actually deliver on a $10 Caesar salad? Or a $7 side of mixed vegetables? What’s the true value of a $48 three course meal if the dessert is badly executed? If a restaurant charges $8-10 for vegetable sides, they’d better be close to perfect. Otherwise, maybe the restaurant should just serve some veggies with the entrees.
The service was pleasant and the live music was fun. Between sets, the band sat down to enjoy dinner with who appeared to be their families. I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to return to Basies, especially on someone else’s dime, though I wouldn’t rush back for dinner. However, it could be a pleasant spot to enjoy live music, spend a happy hour, or share appetizers.