Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Base Crave serves Asian fusion food in Huron Village. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The food at Base Crave is universally well regarded, which would go a far way in satisfying even the Huron Villagers most unhappy about the restaurant replacing Full Moon after 23 years. All the customer reviews are four- or five-star, and The Boston Globe reviewer found the Nepalese fusion fare of momo dumplings and curries “unusual and delicious … juicy and flavorful … mellow and heavenly.”

But as good as the food is, it’s generally not considered okay to tell city officials one thing and do another. It seems worse if the owners of the restaurant go on giving false accounts of what happened and won’t say why.

And that’s what’s happening.

In conversation about the restaurant on neighborhood social media, residents are eager to welcome it, forgiving of any “miscommunication” and critical of the “quite uncivil act of blaming the new owners, without having all the facts, of lying.”

In early February, writing to that friendly audience, restaurant owner Bhola Pandey defended Base Crave against charges of lying about keeping the restaurant operating like Full Moon at 344 Huron Ave., aside from changing the name, by noting twice that it was impossible to have lied because “we had given our whole menu to the License Commission before the hearing” – that, in fact “we had to give our whole menu during the application.”

One commenter online said there was “no evidence that the miscommunication was intentional, and plenty of reason to believe it was unintentional – starting with the undisputed point that they submitted a new menu that had nothing to do with the old one.”

But there is no evidence Pandey submitted a menu. There is no menu for the restaurant on file with the License Commission, as shown by a formal records request, and none was mentioned or described during its Oct. 23 hearing. Eateries are “supposed to” submit a menu, commission executive director Elizabeth Lint said last week, but “it’s not a rule.”

No seating changes, or maybe there is

Pandey has also said repeatedly that telling commissioners there would be “no change” meant “structurally … [meaning the] number of seatings or plumbing or electrical.”

A conversation on neighborhood social media in early February included explanations of changes at Base Crave. (Highlighting has been added.)

Yet on License Commission audio, attorney Joe Devlin is heard telling commissioners that aside from a name change, Pandey would be “running it exactly as it is now … he’s buying it to run it as is, not change anything about it … he is buying this restaurant because it’s an American, you know, fare restaurant that does really well. And he intends to run it that way.” (License Commission minutes for the hearing show officials came away with the impression that “The operation will be run the same as it currently is.”)

“This has got a play area, and the seller has suggested that he might want to add some tables there, and he goes, ‘No, that’s why I’m buying it. There’s a focus on food and family here,’” Devlin said.

Yet despite Devlin’s words, the play area is gone, replaced by seating. And that’s also despite Pandey insisting later that “no changes” meant structurally, including the “number of seatings.”

Not there, or maybe he was

Devlin and the restaurant managers have both suggested a language barrier may have contributed to confusion before the commission, yet Pandey speaks English well and has defended himself in complex English in print and face-to-face conversation. He represented himself before the commission Jan. 29 in requesting a name change to Base Crave from Melting Pot, the short-lived name under which he replaced Full Moon. Later he said he understood that Devlin had misrepresented him and asked Devlin about it immediately after the hearing –though not during, because he didn’t want to “interfere.”

Yet at one point in explaining himself, Pandey said he had not been present at the commission meeting to correct Devlin. He agreed he had been present only after being told he had been seen at the meeting (he is also on the commission’s audio, in the meeting minutes and seen and heard on independent audio and video).

No point, or there might be

So what was the point of all this? Why not just say that, since Full Moon was closing anyway and no one is under any obligation to continue another restaurateur’s vision, he planned to use the space to open a Nepali fusion restaurant? Why did Pandey and his attorney feel the need to make promises, which are now a part of the official, permanent municipal record, that they then felt no obligation to follow through on? Why did they take no action to correct the record or the misunderstanding or “miscommunication”?

Reached at the restaurant, a manager – identified as Pandey’s brother-in-law – said Pandey would call to explain. But Pandey did not call or respond to messages left last week by phone or email representing multiple attempts to get him on the phone. Found at the restaurant Monday, they repeated various explanations of what had been told to the License Commission, adding that it was “racist” to suggest Base Crave wasn’t still serving American food, because the restaurant was staffed by Americans in America.