The Medfield Press talks to Tom McCue, owner and chef of Basil restaurant in Medfield, as part of its "Hometown Cooks" series.
Basil Chef Fulfills His Vision
MHS alum cooks his way at former hangout
By Tim Murphy
For Medfield native Tom McGue, owner and chef of Basil Restaurant, the lure of the kitchen has always been powerful. When he was still a kid living on Fairview Road, he used to frequent Harry's Medfield Bakery on North Street and stare, fixated, as the bakers plied their trade.
"I wanted to be a baker," he says. "I used to go and watch them make the cupcakes and donuts."
Years later, the vision has changed some- the idea of being a baker morphed when he got his first restaurant job as a teenager- but McGue seems to be very much living a dream. His restaurant's Frairy Street location is a site the Medfield High School alum has had his eye on since childhood, a building he kept tabs on from afar when he was otherwise occupied in the kitchen at other area establishments. Finally, after seven years as executive chef at Franco's in Norwood, he decided to try his luck with a place of his own, buying the building where he and his future wife Karen used to come on dates back in high school, when it was still the Frances Café.
"You're just running someone's business for so long, the only other move if you're in cooking is really to own your own place," McGue says.
McGue opted for a simple name for his restaurant and Basil just seemed to fit.
True to its name, many of the herbs used at Basil are grown on location in a garden in front of the restaurant. Oregano, sage, tarragon, chives, fennel, dill, thyme, rosemary, and of course basil are all grown fresh, and help shape the menu for instance, McGue uses any extra basil he gets from the garden for pesto.
While McGue struggles to define his cuisine (he settles on "upscale American-Italian"), he has a very clear idea of what type of food he doesn't serve. Two decades in the restaurant business and apprenticeships at a string of local establishments before landing back in Medfield have left McGue with a clear sense of what a restaurant should and should not be.
"We make everything right as this restaurant, which is really not very popular with restaurants anymore," he says. "They're all corporate restaurants now. They buy food that is already processed- all the cooks have got to do is deep fry them and put them in the microwave. We make everything from scratch and I've had cooks working with me since day one."
"You go to Boston and you get these small portions, they look great, but it's just not me," McGue says. "I can cook it, but I like my food to go out hot, I like it hearty. I like to eat. If you go out and get a four-ounce piece of swordfish for $30, I'm ready for another one. I can eat a meal like that in less than two minutes."
Like a teenager working in an ice cream parlor who always scoops out the serving he wishes he could have, McGue has modeled Basil after his own tastes offering a range of sauces (lobster butter cream, brown butter sage, and tarragon citrus cream, to name just a few) large portions, fresh seafood, and special requests from patrons who prefer to think outside the menu.
"A local customer always comes in and buys a grilled cheese sandwich...and we make them," he says. "If a customer wants it, we'll make it, we don't care what it is…Some people want hot dogs. We always keep them out back for us to eat."
Check out a new article at Town Online here: Faces in the Crowd.
Basil: An Exquisite Dining Experience Close to Home
Contributed to The Norfolk Boomerang
By Emily Bowdren
Basil in Medfield serves virtually flawless cuisine amid a warm, inviting atmosphere. Owner Tom McGue and his team have much to be proud of. Our group of four adults visited on a recent Sunday evening, after hearing from several area residents about this gem of a restaurant that is somewhat hidden – it's located on Frairy Street in Medfield, off of Route 27, not far from the town center.
Our party was seated promptly – the maitre d' set aside a table for us next to a strikingly colorful fish tank.The service was excellent all evening, even as a casual vibe was maintained. Our server made excellent recommendations for each course. The bread that preceded the meal was fresh and still warm when served. The three types offered were white, olive and tomato. Our table particularly enjoyed the olive bread. We started with the fried calamari zingerella, which was accompanied by sweet cherry peppers in a spicy garlic lemon sauce. It was superb, and the large portion was big enough for our hungry group.
For entrees, all four of us enjoyed some of the best tasting dishes we have ever had.
The baked haddock fillet with a Maine crab stuffing, topped with lobster butter sauce was simple, yet revealed several wonderful layers of flavor. The shrimp, veal & chicken marsala was delicious – sautéed with prosciutto and mushrooms, and covered in a marsala wine sauce over linguine accompanied by asparagus. The veal was tender and pasta was cooked perfectly. The grilled salmon filet was wonderfully fresh, and served in a nice lemon caper buerre blanc. The chicken piccata was superb, as well; the tenderloins were topped with a white wine lemon butter sauce with capers and served over linguine.
All the dishes were served in very generous portions, making it difficult to finish, but thankfully we learned that our leftovers still tasted great the following day.
After the entrees were cleared, we had a few minutes to relax before looking at the desert menu and ordering coffee. The four of us in fact, shared equally in three desserts. The pecan pie was packed with nuts and had an exquisite hint of bourbon, earning it the distinction of "The Best Pecan Pie I've Ever Tasted" from at least two of us.We also enjoyed the cheesecake, which was topped with a raspberry puree, and the crème brulee.
All of us had a fantastic meal, and agreed that it won't be long before we return to Basil. We were happy to learn that they do a lot of local catering and also serve pub fare. They also have a private function room. For more information on their catering options, call 508-359-4400.