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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Carmel's Little Food Revolution

If you interrupted Carmel Mayor Sue McCloud from her clandestine wiretapping of the Weekly newsroom a little over a year ago to tell her that her tiny buttoned-down town would today have a gourmet late-night restaurant and an after-hours social hub brimming with good wine and energy within a 100-yard radius (!), she might've lept out of her muumuu—or at least packed you off to her secret CIA-issued prison for the dangerously dumb.

But here we are, celebrating the one-year anniversary of delicious and diminutive neighbors Basil and Mundaka (who is responsible for the indulgent tuna-poached egg indulgence above, captured by Weekly photog Nic Coury). In the same week.

Despite its petite size and tucked away spot in a courtyard on San Carlos between Ocean and Seventh, Basil Seasonal Dining (626-8226) immediately recruited a platoon of loyal patrons who continue to descend regularly for treats like Passionfruit Basil-tini ($9), short-rib raviolis ($14.50) and sweet & spicy jumbo shrimp (below, $9.50).

That's impressive, but it's been the late night service that really wows. Plenty of people set up shop here and think they can do something like this (let alone survive), only to wilt in the silence of the quiet Carmel streets. Not so Basil, who continues to plate $4 dishes like lil' cheeseburger sliders, duck proscuitto mini sandwiches, beef carpacchio and "spicy midnight pasta" from 9:30pm to around midnight.

Michele Cremonese, who hand-crafts all the good grub, has also crafted an invaluable establishment here.

It seems like so long ago that little adorable-but-feisty Mundaka (624-7400) opened on San Carlos in Carmel. That's a testament to how quickly it established itself as an inviting and lively outpost for Spanish-style tapas (above) from Brandon Miller, great wine values from owner Gabe Georis and great energy from the rotation of live musicians and the rotation of the porrón wine spout around the room.

Today they celebrate their first año with a 2-4pm open house starring a selection of pinchos and tapas (¡dame papas bravas!) and what Georis calls "a big batch of sangria." Vendors like Dick Swank of Swank Farms and Jerry the Fisherman—last seen parading a big-ass halibut through the dining room—all show to soak up the glow.

"I'm just happy we made it this far," Georis says. "I hope it keeps going like this."

The highlight to date for the former Casanova GM and new dad? "The late night dance parties."

Yes, McCloud, in Carmel.