Last week my eating club went to Bastante, at 3315 Watson Rd. in the Hill area. Phone is 783-4000. RUN DO NOT WALK TO EAT HERE. The atmosphere is dark and friendly. There was a really nice buzz about the restaurant - it was completely full on a Thursday night, not something we see often. The chairs and booths were comfy, the carpet was clean, and best of all, the waiter was honest! He told us that the amount of food we were going to order was far too much, and we adjusted accordingly. Specials were posted on a big chalkboard and the menu was also easily read. One problem, though. Everything on the Menu looked GREAT. It was hard to limit ourselves. Wine list was better than average, and a Stoli special was on for the evening. Prices were very good for the food offered. Small plates ran $4-9; medium (read: big) ran $9-16.
We started with small plates. A wonderful bread and spread was brought after we ordered. The spread was soft and buttery, almost cheesy, with a nice garlicky sauce alongside. Pizzeta with olive oil, Serrano ham, goat cheese, capers, shallots and tomatoes was excellent - a thin crispy crust was greatly enhanced with the delicious toppings. Cabrales bleu cheese and walnut crusted grapes were very seventies dinner party cheese ball, but were easily saved by the balsamic glazed sliced pears and endive. A house salad was heavy on the dressing, but also very good. Caciocavallo cheese over sliced tomatoes with a salad of artichoke hearts, grilled lamb, red onions and finished with balsamic aioli was pure heaven. While the descriptions on the menu might sound fussy, we appreciated the information ahead of time and the execution of each dish was not overdone.
Medium plates were actually quite large. A lasagnette of wild mushrooms, chicken and spinach with creamy, tangy cheeses was one of the yummiest takes on Italian food I have ever had. Pork Osso Buco was also breathtaking. Lobster dumplings with avocado, cilantro, shallot and pineapple relish were certainly a departure from any set cuisine, and was also delish. The house roasted duck leg with dried cherry and wild mushroom sauce was a true revelation - it was even better than duck confit! I usually do not like duck (except confit), but this was amazing. Mixed grilled handmade sausages were spicy and had great texture. Grilled lamb shoulder was also incredible, although its eater did not like the new potatoes and sundried tomato sauce alongside (everyone else did, though). Scallops with a cream sauce were beautiful and tasty. Finally, a skewer of beef tenderloin, topped with carmelized onions and brandied beef reduction sauce, with basil crushed potatoes, was perfectly cooked to order, and each bite was absolutely luscious.
The only problem with Bastante is that you could eat there every night and never get to taste everything. This is not a typical midwestern restaurant. Everyone was absolutely blown away by the differentness and sheer joy of each dish. Our table created a dull roar, as we tasted, drank and ate some more. I would highly recommend Bastante for anyone. My only fear is that they will not be able to maintain this pace of great food. Keep your fingers crossed, and get there as soon as you can. This is the best restaurant in town right now.