Charcuteries ($5/each; $16/four) include prosciutto, real Bolognese-style mortadella, fairly compelling Genoa salami, and — my favorite — speck, cut as thin as prosciutto but with plenty of smoke to it. We had all four, served with gherkins and horseradish sauce.
A white-bean soup ($9) was puréed with roasted red pepper to make it look like a thickened tomato soup. The first surprise was an effective dose of dill; the second was a pair of perfectly grilled shrimp as a kind of garnish. Soup in a big bowl loses heat, however, so some service adjustments are needed here. The carpaccio ($11) was one of the most beautiful and delicious I’ve ever had. The sliced raw beef was so uniformly pink it looked like a pool of raspberry sauce under an arugula-fennel salad.
Now about that coffee-curry monkfish ($23). The fish was chunked and wrapped in single leek leaves, adding only a subtle flavor. The side vegetables were a few carrots and quite a few slightly cooked cucumbers. But the sauce was brilliant. Coffee became an aromatic spice like cumin in an unconventional curry that didn’t taste like Indian food, but did taste spicy and complicated, without overwhelming a mild-flavored fish.
The cocoa tagliatelli ($14) was less exotic. Cocoa without sugar in pasta provides more color than flavor, creating a brown pasta that complements the woodsy appearance and flavor of wild mushrooms (mostly porcini with some shitake). A peppery undertone finished a flavor spectrum likely intended for old cabernet-based or Rhône wines.
Sea bass ($20) was one nicely filleted chunk, perhaps a New England tautog or black sea bass, served on barley risotto. Hangar steak ($21) is a nice version of the bistro specialty (like a thicker skirt steak from another part of the diaphragm), rare as ordered, with sautéed broccoli rabe.
The dessert list is short, and perhaps intended to go with dessert wines, of which there is a long list. If you have wine left, you could always go back to a cheese plate. “Threemisu” ($9) is one classic tiramisu, a shot glass of tiramisu-flavored egg nog, and a scoop of espresso-flavored gelato. Strawberry milles feuilles ($9) actually had about trois feuilles (leaves), but was a lovely little strawberry shortcake with lots of flavor for the season. Molten chocolate cake ($9) was just that, with a fun pumpkin sauce.
Service in a suddenly very popular room was pretty good; servers were decently patient while customers navigated the complicated wine list and menu, and left a gap after appetizers. However, coffee didn’t come until after the desserts. The space is darker than Torch, but the background music (Cesara Evora, early) is stll torchy. The décor features wine bottles hung sideways on long racks, interspersed with granite-pattern laminate, which also makes some bench seating. The back wall is wine labels — the kind of wall it would take a home hobbyist years to assemble. I’d rather taste wine in a less distracting environment, but the big glasses make up for that, and the food is a treat even if you don’t drink. If you do, the wine list will keep you fascinated for years, and by then they will have found even weirder selections.
Bin 26 Enoteca, 26 Charles St, Boston | Open Sun, 5:30-10 pm; Mon-Thurs, Noon-10 pm; and Fri & Sat, Noon-11 pm | AE, DC, MC, VI | Beer and wine | No valet parking | Sidewalk-level access | 617.723.5939
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Robert Nadeau: RobtNadeau@aol.com