Mediterranean meets Main Line

Alex Paranicas

The aromas of basil and garlic permeate throughout Main Line eatery Basil Bistro, located on King Road in Paoli.

A sister restaurant of the Main Line trifecta of restaurants Tango in Bryn Mawr and Nectar in Berwyn, both “expense-account restaurants,” Basil Bistro is a reasonably-priced alternative. It features an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and continental fare, served in a relaxed and open-air atmosphere. The casual ambience of Basil Bistro is accompanied by a separate bar, which also offers the same food as the restaurant. Additionally, a private room with a wine cellar is a unique option for large groups.

Having visited Tango before, I expected and received the same prompt and attentive service at Basil Bistro. Certain elements such as the freshly grated cheese and olive oil plates adorn every table, and these condiments complement the warm and chewy foccacia and fresh Italian bread. My server knew the menu inside and out, as well as the succulent daily specials, which are detailed in the addendum to the standard menu. On the day of my visit, the specials included Hawaiian Butterfish with lemon herb butter ($19) and Hawaiian Hamachi ($22), grilled and accompanied with soy ginger marinade and saffron rice, two tasty fish dishes, which were freshly flown in from this pacific paradise.

Basil Bistro’s appetizers were crunchy calamari, coconut cashew fried shrimp, chicken spring rolls and escarole onion soup. If you are not in the mood for a starter, the salads on the menu are exquisite and include a warm frisee and arugula salad with goat cheese and toasted cashews, as well as a stilton salad with port wine poached pear, spiced pecans, stilton cheese and port wine vinaigrette. These succulent starters range in price from $5 to $9. I sampled the crispy calamari and, to my delight, the squid was lightly breaded and fried, but not too oily. The warm arugula salad melted in your mouth as the toasted cashews and mixed greens pleased the palate. For an entrée, the grilled sesame ahi tuna ($19), was accompanied by aromatic jasmine rice, wakame seaweed salad, drizzled with sushi-staple tobiko (a textured fish egg). The tender tuna was deliciously prepared and was savory, with an infusion of Asian flavor, due to the soy ginger marinade. The desserts, which, unfortunately, I was too full to try, appeared to be sinful, with six varieties of cheesecake, such as mango and vanilla, peanut butter and walnut cake, as well as a warm and sweet apple cobbler.

Overall, my dining experience here was enjoyable, as the relaxed atmosphere complemented the savory food. Add to this a responsive and knowledgeable waiter, and the meal will be one to remember. The diverse menu caters to a variety of palates, from pizza and burgers, to fish and meats. Although I arrived at the restaurant on a Friday evening without one, a reservation is highly recommended, according to the hostess. Basil Bistro accepts credit cards and has a wine list for the over-21 crowd. If you are a connoisseur of cultural cuisine like me, I recommend you sample Basil Bistro.