Thursday, July 13, 2006

The White Rhino's Favorite Links From A-Z: "S" = Sweet Basil Restaurant - A Golden Nugget in Needham!

I love to discover new places to eat, especially when I learn about them from friends. So, I am pleased to share the wealth and spread the word about Sweet Basil, a tiny treasure of a bistro in Needham. This cozy spot – 20 seats, but with plans to increase capacity in a matter of a few weeks – is located at 942 Great Plain Avenue in Needham. I don’t often find a need to travel to downtown Needham, but I’ll be heading there with greater frequency now that I have tasted the offerings of Chef/Proprietor, David Becker.

David Becker’s story is a wonderful Horatio Alger tale of starting at the bottom and climbing towards the top. As fate would have it, I learned in talking with David that when he was born, his family lived across the street from where I grew up in the Joppa neighborhood in the South End of Newburyport. He started out washing dishes at Joseph’s, a gourmet restaurant near the Merrimac River waterfront. He would later work at Scandia, another Newburyport restaurant of renown. He obviously absorbed a great deal from the chefs at these stellar restaurants, and it was clear to me in sampling his cuisine at Sweet Basil, that he has incorporated some very sophisticated training into creating the menu and cuisine at his own restaurant in Needham.

I was fortunate to have been given a gift certificate to Sweet Basil by one of my client companies, so I as able to order without thinking much about price, but the prices on the menu are very reasonable for the kind of fare that is offered. As an appetizer, I ordered steamed mussels, and they were the best I have ever tasted. The combination of spices was perfect – served swimming in garlic and wine broth and garnished with Roma tomatoes, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and crostini. When I finished the mussels, I spied lying tantalizingly at the bottom of the bowl a generous slice of bread that had absorbed all of the flavors and that served as a wonderful exclamation point to the this first course! For the entree, the waitress recommended the Skillet Seared Steak that was served on a bed of polenta, which is basically sweet potato grits! Seriously! It was heavenly!

The secret sauce in all of this is David himself. I sat near the door, and was able to observe and hear him greet each diner, many of whom he greeted by name with his signature line: “How can I help you tonight?” David’s unassuming and folksy bonhomie leaves a good taste in your mouth, and is a wonderful complement to the innovative and scrumptious food offerings.

I was so impressed by my Sweet Basil experience, that I am adding this restaurant to “The White Rhino’s Favorite Links From A-Z.”

Enjoy, and when you visit Sweet Basil, tell David that The White Rhino sent you!


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