By COLlive reporter
Photos: Shimi Kutner/COLlive
Who’s ready for pink-colored eggs?
Standing at the reopened Basil Pizza and Wine Bar in Crown Heights, the new executive chef Kim Plafke admits that the popular dairy restaurant that opened in 2010 needed a change.
“It was time for a new menu,” she says. “While the menu at Basil was revolutionary 6 years ago, it was really time for something new. The customers know every dish, every glass of wine, every dessert.”
Plafke, a South Florida native who lived in New York for the last 10 years, has worked as both senior sous chef and executive chef at large seafood restaurants. Her parents keep kosher and she worked as a private chef for Kosher clients.
When Plafke was hired by food entrepreneur Danny Branover for the Basil Hospitality group, the original plan was for her to oversee the menu of the highly anticipated restaurant called “Meat.”
“At first I thought it would be too hard to do all these meat dishes without non-kosher ingredients,” she says. “But then the more I thought about it, I realized if I could pull it off and it would taste not just ‘good for Kosher,’ but even better than some of the non-Kosher stuff, that would be amazing.”
After working on the menus for “Meat” for a few months, Plafke was asked to oversee the menus for the entire Basil Hospitality Group, which includes Basil and the Bakerie shop on Albany Avenue.
Her plan for Basil was to “take the leap and go in a totally different direction, rather than just update it, and make it new and different,” Plafke told COLlive.com.
Video: Basil Chef Kim Plafke chats for an InstaStory on COLlive’s Instagram @COLliveofficial
The menu now includes more seasonal and more local items, especially seafood, because “the shortest amount of time from dock to the table is the best and freshest,” she says.
This season’s Hungry Chef pizza is already receiving rave reviews, with fresh truffle, basil, pesto and mozzarella. Recently, she was inspired to create a pizza with an almost liquid soft scrambled egg and truffle.
Appetizers include trout candy – a soft, sweet fish jerky, and deviled eggs topped with roe and fried fish skin in a pink-colored egg white.
Unique entrees include the seafood sausages, flavored like a classic Kielbasa sausage, and delicate fish ribs from the buffalo carp, the midsection of a 100 lb. fish, cured, smoked with herbs and citrus, served with barbeque sauce on the side.
Joe Trad, managing partner for Basil Hospitality Group who oversees the operations of all 3 restaurants, says that the new chef will set the bar even higher in the Kosher food industry.
“When Basil opened, with a Head Chef with an identity and standard of excellence, we set the bar for all Kosher eateries, and it was a game changer for the Kosher food industry,” he told COLlive.com.
“Just like Basil did this 6 years ago, we are doing it again, bringing the highest quality cuisine and service that the Kosher world has not seen before. We are making our mark in the culinary world at large, not just in the Kosher world,” he said.
Still on the menu are the wildly popular Basil fries, which have been revamped for even better taste, as well as a number of pizzas with a newly created more crispy dough, one of which will change regularly by season, to keep things interesting.
The popular goat cheese salad has also gotten an update, now including market lettuce and burrata – a homemade mozzarella stuffed with ricotta, herbs and cream. Another new salad has potato croquette croutons, chicory, crescent seared white tuna and pesto aioli.
Basil’s desserts are now created in collaboration with Bakerie, such as the chocolate mousse cake and macarons, while Basil creates its own homemade ice cream.
Part of the new concept is to introduce more, yet smaller dishes which cost less, Plafke explained.
“We wanted to encourage ‘communal eating,’ where a group will order a few items and everyone shares them, instead of everyone only trying one dish, this way everyone gets to taste everything,” she says.
Basil is currently privately supervised by Rabbi Leibel Swerdlov of Crown Heights in cooperation with Rabbi Mendel Schneerson, a relative of Branover and a partner in the business.
Trad said they are hoping to work again with OK Kosher, which previously removed the certification.
“While we are working to get an official hechsher, and we would love for that to be the OK,” he said, “our Rabbis work to make sure we are at the highest level of kashrus and are most stringent in every way. They take pride in their work, as the burden is on them to achieve the highest standards, and it shows.”