Saturday, January 19, 2008

Basis New American Restaurant - Phoenix

UPDATE 7/11/2010: Basis has apparently closed it's doors as of 7/2/2010.

We were somewhat at a loss as to where to go to dinner last night. Still reeling from the vacation- and pneumonia-induced financial shortage, we wanted someplace not too expensive. Tara's only request was "meat". After thinking of our usual options, I remembered that Basis, a place we'd heard good things about recently, had burgers in addition to the more expensive entrees. Located just west on Thunderbird of 7th Street on the north side, it's not too far from our house.

Basis is in an unassuming strip mall across from an AJ's Fine Foods and behind a Safeway that faces 7th Street. We arrived just before 8pm. While it looked small from the outside, the restaurant was actually rather spacious. There were about eight or nine groups eating scattered around the restaurant. The restaurant has around 20 tables/booths/sectionals for seating. Four deep booths are along the east wall, half the west and south walls have three tables each with chairs and a long, booth-like sectional seating running along the wall. Those tables can be pushed together for larger groups. The center of the dining area has about 8 four-tops. A bar takes up the northwest part of the dining area and an open kitchen is on the north side. We were seated in the southeast corner.

For a long time after we were seated, we didn't have any contact with waitstaff. We looked over the menu. A lot of the items looked really good, but we were there for the cheeseburgers. Tara really wanted to try the ribs, but we figured that would be something for another visit. A waiter eventually came over and got our drink order. He also listed several entrees they were out of for the night. Apparently we just missed a huge rush during which they were completely packed, including at the bar. He also listed the daily specials. I tried to order a Coke, but he said they were out of that too. Tara and I just stuck with water. While he went to get drinks, we kinda waffled between a chicken caesar salad with soup and the burgers. We finally did decide to stick with our burger plan. A hostess dropped off our water. Again, we seemed to wait a long time before our waiter swung back around. When he finally did, he dropped off a Coke. They did have some after all. We both ordered the cheeseburger with no tomato, Tara's medium and mine medium-well. We also both opted for the sweet potato fries as our included side.

As we waited for our entree, the waiter came by and brought a refill for my Coke. He also said he's bring some bread over as well. Tara had commented on what appeared to be bread plates on the table and wondered if we were going to get some. The bread basket that arrived had four very long slice of a spongy bread and two ramekins, one with a green spread and one with orange spread. The girl who brought them offered no explanation as to what the flavors they might be. We tried them and the green was very obviously basil. The orange seemed to be some sort of roasted red pepper spread, but it had an extra flavor component that made us unsure.

After a little while, we'd finished the bread. I noticed two plates being put on the shelf along the kitchen wall and wondered what they were, only to realize that the were our burgers. The chefs put on the sweet potato fries from a bowl and our server brought them over.

The lettuce, onion, ketchup, mayo, and mustard were all on the side. The burger had the melted cheddar on it and that was about it. I put ketchup and mustard on mine, along with some red onion slices. I tried a few fries and was immediately disappointed. They ranged from tepid to cold. They were obviously hold-overs from the earlier rush. The burger was pretty good, but was definitely well-done, not the medium-well I asked for. This isn't a huge issues, as I've only started ordering my burgers medium-rare within the past year or so. Tara's burger was past her ordered doneness as well, probably medium-well like mine should have been. I really didn't see any reason for our burgers to both be past our ordered temp. I was able to watch the kitchen the whole time, and ours was the only dinner order they had. Still, I did enjoy the burger. Tara liked hers as well. She was even eating the fries, despite their temperature.

Our waiter eventually came by to ask how things were going. I mentioned that the fries came out pretty much cold. He said he'd have the kitchen fry up a fresh batch and bring them out. A few minutes later, fresh, burning hot fries appeared. They were really good but probably needed some more seasoning or possibly an aioli to dip them in. Tara actually found them to be a little too sweet.

We finished our meal and waited for the waiter to come by so we could ask for the check. We waited a LONG time. He finally came over and asked if we wanted dessert, but nothing sounded tempting. We asked for the check. Again, another very long wait. We could see him the whole time, as the room is open and from our seats, we could see everything. He would stay behind the bar for long periods doing who knows what. He brought the check and I put my card in it but he'd already left. Once more, long wait. He came, grabbed the check, and again, long wait. Eventually, we paid and were able to leave.

Overall, we enjoyed it. Service, despite every other table either having coffee or just lingering, was horribly slow. He was very friendly and personable and didn't charge for the Coke or fresh fries. There were two waiters plus a girl doing water/bread service. Possibly it was just an anomaly. We definitely want to go back and try it again, as there are a lot of things on the menu that look really good. They are having a special Valentine's Day menu for $52. We saw it on the counter when we first went in.

Basis New American Restaurant
410 E Thunderbird Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 843-3689

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You read about things like this, but never think you'll actually see one...

I was at the Super L Ranch Market today getting some more chuka soba noodles. I wandered over to the seafood section since Tara wanted to make a garlic shrimp dish for dinner. As I was looking at the prices, I ran across this.

I'm pretty sure we never prepared them this way in Maine...

CSI: Statuatory Rape?!?

I enjoy watching the original CSI. I used to watch CSI:Miami but never watched the New York spin-off. While I was watching the Patriots win yesterday, I saw a promo for this Monday's CSI:Miami. Apparently David Caruso's character has the "son he never knew he had" by Elizabeth Berkley. Now, that started a warning bell in my head. David Caruso has been around for a while. He was a deputy in the first Rambo movie in 1982. Elizabeth Berkley was in "Saved By The Bell" back in 1989 as a high schooler. I looked up their ages on IMDB. It's Actor, Birth Year, Age Now, and Age when the kid was conceived.

David Daruso: 1956 - 52 - 32
Elizabeth Berkley: 1972 - 36 - 16
Evan Ellingson: 1988 - 20

Granted they play fast and loose with character's ages versus their true age, but still, it looks like Horatio was getting him some not-yet-legal action. It must be the sunglasses move of his. Jailbait just can't resist it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I always enjoy taking trips to LeeLee Oriental Market in Chandler. Aside from a huge selection of ethnic foods not normally found in the regular supermarkets, you also run across some more unusual (at least to most American tastes) items.

Ok, so this one isn't so odd, but my first thought was "What's wrong with the boy sardines and who has the job of sexing the fish?"

We found this right at the entrance. I'm not really sure I want to drink the essence of a chicken. It sounds a bit too voodoo-ish to me. Although the mushroom extract does make it a bit more tempting.

Vegetarian Shredded Meat. That just sounds like a oxymoron to me. Also, I'm from New England, and we love us our peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. However, THIS isn't the fluff we usually use. I prefer mine like this:

While Fluff is fairly common in Maine (Mom had two large containers to make fudge with), it's hard to find around here. I stumbled across this stash at an AJ's in the area. I love my peanut butter and Fluff toasted. The pb and F start to get runny. Very yummy. And I'm sure Fluff in a market in China would look just as odd to them as the Essence of Chicken Drink does to me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who doesn't like a grilled hot dog?

It's never too early to prepare for grilling season. You can even get these with custom bases. I'm not sure why an Arlington, Tx, based company would have the photo promoting the Sooners, but you can choose from most NFL and college teams. Only $15 from Roast My Weenie.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Wire

I'm a TV addict. It's not a secret and Tara gives me all sort of grief on it. Usually if I enjoy a show, however, it's days are numbered. Brisco County, Wonderfalls, Firefly, Sports Night, and at the top of the list, Farscape. The list is endless. Sometimes shows I like actually last. Buffy is an all-time favorite, as is Scrubs. Most of the shows I enjoy are definitely not mainstream fare, which helps in their premature demise.

Sometimes, though, the star align and despite tiny audiences and my favor, a show survives. HBO's The Wire is such a show. Entering it's fifth and final season on Sunday, every season has been nearly perfect. It's unbelievably dense, incredibly complex, and to me, hypnotic. Set in Baltimore, it started out as a Cops vs Drug Dealers drama, but each season has shifted focus on different aspects of what would seem to be a decayed and dying city. The second season examined the Port of Baltimore and the union workers trying to survive there, in addition to continuing the story of the drug kingpins of the first season. Season three looked at politics and a police major who "legalized" drugs in his district. Season four looked at the Baltimore school system, as well as a mayoral campaign.

There are dozens of main characters over the course of the series so far. One thing I like is that if you watch earlier seasons again, a character who shows up briefly in a scene or two will actually become a major player in a later season. It's got amazing continuity. The acting is top-notch all around. You get to know these people and believe in them. McNulty, Bunk, Stringer, Prop Joe, Marlo, and my favorite, Omar. Omar is a stickup guy who only robs drug dealers. He's a major bad ass and has no fear. His war with the Barksdale crew takes place over the first three seasons and includes a few of my favorite character confrontations, notably with Brother Muzone, a fearsome enforcer from New York who looks like a wimpy dude in a bow tie but most definitely is not.

The Wire is perfect for watching on dvd. Unfortunately, typical of HBO dvds, they are expensive. Amazon had them on sale back in December for a steal, but that's long over. BET repeated seasons 1 through 3, but it was laughable watching it bleeped out. Seasons 1 and 3 were uncut except for blurring and some language. Season 2 was butchered to fit into a 1 hour time slot and whole storylines were axed. I found it used at a store in Phoenix and bought it just to watch it uncut again.

The big problem for people who haven't seen the earlier seasons might be the complexity that is it's trademark. Don't let that stop you or rent the dvds at Blockbuster or some other place first. TV doesn't get much better and while I like that they are ending on their own terms, I'll miss being able to look forward to a new season of it each year.