365: Day 72 – Basilic

365: Day 72 – Basilic

Our reservation was 5:30 pm, the restaurant’s opening time and we were eagerly awaiting on a bench outside the restaurant. I love walking into a restaurant as soon as it opens because you get to see all the empty tables set and ready to welcome guests and it feels a little exclusive when you are seated before anyone else is. The restaurant has only eight or nine tables so it feels very cozy and intimate. You can fantasize about being transported to your favorite French or Swiss town, or you can be happy and content that you are on this charming little island in Orang County called Balboa Island.

The restaurant opened punctually and all the staff seemed friendly and polite from the start. The table was set beautifully and I loved the napkin rings with their little fork, knife, and spoon. We were brought our menus and without skipping a beat asked what we would like to drink and soon thereafter brought out the amuse bouche and with that began this wonderful French-Swiss culinary adventure.

Amuse bouche – Feta Toast: The wonderfully crispy toast with the feta and briny olives had me salivating while hearing the crunchiness as I bit into it. Like every good amuse bouche, it was a tease and had me wishing for more.

Soup Du JourMushroom asparagus: The soup of the day was a creamy mushroom asparagus with a very well-balanced flavor. Nothing was overpowering and it was not as salty as a lot of creamy soups out there.

Soupe A L’Oignon Swiss onion soup gratinée with gruyère toast: The onion soup was one of the best I’ve had. It was also great on the salt and the bread in the soup gave it a great texture.

Sea Bass: This was the fish of the day and it was cooked perfectly where the fish feels almost buttery and the creamy sauce was light enough to not overpower the fish.

Steak Au PoivreGrilled New York steak, black peppercorn sauce and baby vegetables: The steak had a goo flavor on its own, but the black peppercorn sauce is what really brought this dish to life. The vegetables were very flavorful as well. Often these are relegated to just being some extra fluff next to a juicy piece of meat, but this was not the case here: these veggies were great. The mashed potatoes on the dish were good, but I could have used about another bowl or two of these: they were quite good, and I liked that they seemed to have been squeezed out of some nozzle and topped with basil flowers.

Coq Au Vinmarinated, braised chicken, egg noodle and burgundy wine: I heard the name of this dish once when I was a child and I felt so fancy telling anyone about it. In the many years since I had a few versions of this dish and even cooked it myself (thank to Julia Child). I am therefore quite inclined to opt for this dish when I see it on the menu and this particular on was no disappointment and quite interesting. I’ve never had it with egg noodles before and it ended up being a very delicious addition. This too was also decorated with basil flowers.

Crème brûlée – This is a pretty standard dessert and one of my favorites. No matter how many times I’ve had it, I still get a tremendous joy out of breaking through that burnt sugar and digging out a spoonful of delicious creaminess with some bits of broken sugar and brining it to my mouth. This dessert here did not disappoint, but there was nothing unique or remarkable about this particular version. It was pretty standard and I am grateful for that.

Meringue with strawberry ice cream – This dessert was definitely more unique and I would highly recommend it! Given the choice between the two, I would still choose my beloved crème brûlée over this, no matter how standard and boring.

Once you’re done with your lovely meal, just enjoy the atmosphere of this cozy little restaurant and walk off your meal through the cute streets of this lovely Balboa Island.

365: Day 71 – Day Trip to Balboa Island

365: Day 71 – Day Trip to Balboa Island

Coastal California towns are my favorite to explore. They have a refreshing small town feel where life is more relaxed, the people are friendly, and their streets are dotted with small businesses selling local apparel, lovely smelling soaps, art, home decor, etc. Balboa Island is no different even though it is still within the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

My favorite way to reach the island is to go to Newport and enter the Balboa Peninsula and continue driving until you reach the Balboa Pier area. There are lost of shops and restaurants to explore there as well, but today I will focus only on the island. Near the pier, but on the opposite side of the peninsula you will find the Balboa Island Ferry. There you can hop on the ferry on foot, on your bike, or in your car. Only about four cars fit on the ferry and it’s quite fun to drive onto this tiny ferry. I recommend trying to be the first car on (especially in a truck or SUV) because when you pull all the way forward you will only see the water beyond your hood. It’s quite fun when especially when you start to feel the gentle floating on the water. If you’re prone to motion sickness, don’t worry about it as it is a short ride to the island.

Once you’re on the island make your way towards the main street. It’s a small island so if you get lost, you will still end up on the main street with all the shops. Parking on the main street may be difficult so try looking for parking on the side streets as well. Everything is walking distance and you’ll want to be walking by as many stores and restaurants as possible.

Shopping

As I mentioned before, in the shops on the island you can find local apparel, lovely smelling soaps, local art, and unique home decor. You’ll find only boutique shops here and I love it. I can’t comment much on apparel, but we did buy some great soaps and few unique items for our home. If you go later in the fall you will find lots of beautiful seasonal items. A part of me wanted to buy everything and turn my home into a Christmas wonderland. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, this would be a great place to buy unique gifts for friends and family instead those plastic rectangles everyone seems to exchange these days.

Restaurants

The island has about a dozen restaurants, and of those the list below are the ones we were most interested in trying.

  • Shanghai Pine Garden Restaurant
  • Basilic Restaurant
  • Balboa Island Baking Company
  • Picante Martin’s Mexican Restaurant
  • Ciao Italian Restaurant

All of these seem pretty self explanatory in terms of what cuisine they serve except for one. Basilic turns out to be a highly-rated French-Swiss restaurant which also ends up being the most expensive restaurant on the island. The first time we were tried to eat there, but they were booked for the evening so we agreed to come back to this restaurant for my mom’s birthday and make a reservation. So I will leave you on that cliffhanger as I will write about our dinner at this restaurant in tomorrow’s post!

However, in the meantime I will leave you with a few pictures of the neighborhood from our walk around the island.