There are more than two dozen items on Basico’s menu, but it was the listed dish components which beckoned to the eaters at my table. Cotija pimento cheese sounded too imaginative to be confined to a burger: Might we try it on a griddled corn tortilla? And how about this side of spicy turnip greens? Wouldn’t that make a better vegetarian taco base than braised beans?
But our mixing and matching reached its apex when the elements reached the table: My hands-down favorite Basico dish is a spicy greens-and-pimento cheese taco. You won’t find it on the menu.
Since chefs invest serious time and thought in constructing dishes, I wondered whether the folks who had a say in assembling Basico’s menu would bless our tinkering – or chalk it up as thoughtless, ungracious meddling.
“I don’t mind that at all,” Basico’s owner, Bryan Lewis, tells me. “I think there are a lot of chefs and foodies who come out and do that.”
Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Lewis, whose portfolio also includes Mixson Market, is comfortable with guests shopping the menu for ingredients. Still, even he concedes there are limits: No self-respecting chef wants to send out a plate of mango ice cream with fried oysters and queso fresco, even if it strikes a diner as a brilliant idea.
“You have to take it on a case-by-case basis,” Lewis says. “If an order would put the kitchen in a tizzy, we have to look at that.”
Recombining ingredients is a back-of-the-house tradition, since staffers tire of eating the same entrees night after night. According to Lewis, some members of the surrounding Mixson Bath & Racquet Club claim to suffer from the same dish fatigue. Fortunately, he adds, the kitchen is “changing up some dishes” soon. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the P.C. and greens.