There is no aspect on which I can focus. No element of the food. No characteristic of the ambiance. Basil's is perfect. Every trip is a journey, and every bite a treat.
Dinner is by reservation only, although they will accept walk-ins on non-busy days. Proper attire is not specifically required, but if you don't come so equipped, you'll feel noticeably out-of-place. The dining area is beautiful. Small and cozy, with Mozart or some classical contemporary always playing in the background. Sealed away from the loud, crude bustle of Narragansett beach front, one feels nestled in a fine, Parisian eatery where people do not eat, they dine. Nothing seems fake or tacky. Only genuine decor graces the walls as though this is how the chef would decorate his own dining room for beloved gusts. My dining partner one night disliked the wallpaper, calling it dour. I think it perfectly matches the personality of the restaurant.
The service is THE BEST IN RHODE ISLAND. Steadfast and vigilant, the service maintains an omnipresent but never obtrusive eye over your table. They perfectly execute European service with words, mannerisms, and attention. They aren't crude waiters from Applebees, merely charged with delivering food. They are as versed in cuisine as the chef himself and an integral part of the restaurant. The menu is without weakness. The filet mignon, the crab almondine, the salmon. They are all perfect.
The duck a l'orange may be the best on the East Coast. The wine list is without peer in most of New England. It is the best I have ever seen. The desserts are simple in design, austere in presentation, and flawless in execution. The chocolate mousse may be the best I've had. Old, worldly people come here to escape the crass, noisy reality of the modern world. They hide here to reminisce about trips on the Mauretania, African safaris, Mercedes Torpedo roadsters, and dodging bombs during the Blitz (All actually overheard). Set to Brahms, the stories transport you. This is an old-world restaurant in a time when they are dying.
There are many restaurants which have excellent service, or cuisine, or decor in Rhode Island, but none of them bring all of those together with the vision that Basil's does it. They do it this way because they believe this to be the only way it's done. The prices indicate no pomp or arrogance, yet its food shows the hand of a master who would not be faulted for having them. Basil's is a culinary wonder.
UPDATE 6/5/2009: I eliminated half of a star. Again, as with my edit of the Emilio's Bakery review, it is not because quality went down, it's because I wrote this review years ago and have grown as a reviewer and gourmet. Five stars to me means a place that is not only perfect, but offers something unique. Basil's is perfection but the recipes are what you would expect from French and continental cuisine. I still stand by my statement that Basil's is one of the best restaurants in the southern New England.
Price range for two: $50-$100+
No stars - Utterly Abysmal
* - Bad
** - Edible
*** - Average
**** - Very Good
***** - Excellent
Basil's Restaurant and Lounge
22 Kingstown Rd
Narragansett, RI 02882-3340
401-789-3743 (Reservations recommended)
Tuesday through Sunday 5:30 to 10:00pm