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Basil’s Kitchen reliable fare worth a try


5500 River Rd., Rosemont

(847) 678-4000;

Prices: Appetizers: $7-$10; entrees, $19-$29; desserts: $6-$7.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m. daily.

Try: Fried calamari, Basil’s Salad and, with reservations, Paella Valencia.

Tips: Reservations accepted. Free validated parking for diners. Full-service bar. Nightly specials.

In a bite: Basil’s Kitchen may not be the first restaurant that comes to mind when one’s travels lead to Rosemont. But its diverse albeit not cutting-edge menu of reliably prepared fare merits a second look.

Updated: June 5, 2013 2:42PM

Growing up in the shadow of O’Hare International Airport has shaped the tiny but shrewd neighboring village of Rosemont.

Over the years the suburb has put out the welcome mat for national hotel chains that have greeted countless business travelers and vacationers to the Midwest. It also has seen construction of a large convention center, sports stadium and live theater venue.

Meanwhile, diners — out-of-towners and locals alike — have benefitted from the arrival in Rosemont of high-end steak and seafood houses, multiple ethnic restaurants and a recently opened German microbrewery.

With such a wide array of choices clamoring for attention, low-key Basil’s Kitchen can fly under the radar and be overlooked. This Mediterranean-inspired restaurant is just off the lobby of the eight-story Embassy Suites. It has been a fixture since the hostelry debuted some 20 years ago. Though guests at the inn have easiest access to the place, the casual, spacious restaurant is open to all comers.

Free parking is scarce to nonexistent in Rosemont, but patrons who dine at Basil’s Kitchen can save themselves $25 by having their garage ticket validated with their meal receipt.

Unlike flashier venues nearby that cater to the expense-account crowd and command much higher tariffs, entrees at Basil’s Kitchen range from $19-$29.

During a recent Friday night stop for an early dinner there was no crowd to battle. Service was attentive and the staff courteous.

The meal started with drinks from the bar. The wine list was dominated by California labels and, surprisingly, featured only two choices from Italy. A handful of craft beers were on offer from Goose Island and Finch’s Beer Co. in Chicago, and Two Brothers in Warrenville.

Lightly breaded calamari was expertly fried and accompanied by a mild marinara dipping sauce. Other starter options included spinach-and-goat-cheese-stuffed portabella mushroom, lump crab cakes, scallops Mornay and beef tips tenderloin. A twosome at a nearby table made short shrift of the restaurant’s popular bruschetta: crostini topped with plum tomatoes, red onion, basil and garlic — the whole works drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Next up came a shared a la carte Basil’s Salad, a pleasant combination of mixed greens, cucumbers, red onion and feta cheese tossed with a dill yogurt dressing and topped with cubes of cantaloupe and honeydew and the occasional walnut.

The kitchen’s interpretation of Paella Valencia, the classic Spanish rice-seafood-chicken dish gets high marks for effort but only a satisfactory grade for execution. The entree’s paucity of clams and negligible chorizo cost it points.

My dining partner fared better with Chilean sea bass, which was baked to perfection and plated with assorted roasted vegetables including green beans and spinach.

Steak Vesuvio, filet mignon, prime rib and porterhouse were among other main-course options, as well as eggplant lasagna, pork tenderloin and farm-raised salmon.

Desserts included the tried-and-true, including a mundane chocolate truffle torte I tried. There’s also cheesecake, spumoni, sorbet plus tiramisu and cannoli, the latter two made in-house.

Thomas Witom is a local free-lance writer.

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