Bina Osteria

Opulence: enjoy it while you can
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  January 21, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

Bina Osteria follows the Italian tradition of serving four-course meals, with little dishes of pasta in between. So if you're among those who are still able to afford it — and there will be even fewer of you soon — don't miss out. These are small plates that won't fill you up, but they really are delicious. I loved the "Cappelli" ($17 small/$25 dinner size): little dumplings of ricotta with just the right amount of salt, in a sauce with thin sliced beets and greens. Potato gnocchi ($17/$29) is light and melts in your mouth, with little morsels of seafood and lemon. And "Spaghetti alla Carbonara" ($15/$27) brings just a little bowl of square, crunchy spaghetti with a wisp of egg sauce and a heap of bacon-flavored foam. (The foams at this restaurant are egg-white based, and I don't think they carry the flavors as well as the milk-protein foams elsewhere, but foam is soon to be a historical footnote, I fear.) The risotto ($15/$25) is creamy with fully cooked rice. The crunchy bits are fried sweetbreads — the lightest possible meat.

Back when the US was wallowing in its wealth, restaurants would make towers of vertical food to amuse diners. That trend seems to have faded a bit, but it's still alive here, so the chicken marsala ($29), for instance, is topped with a postcard-like piece of refried chicken skin. The breast of chicken is stuffed with mushrooms, and the sweet wine sauce is arranged in spirals on the plate. "Crispy Suckling Pig Confit" ($33) — if this is making you too hungry, have some more gruel, my grandchildren — brings pulled pork that's been pressed together in the shape of a brownie and crisped on top. A side of turnips is cut into crescents that look like Peking ravioli, while apple sauce is smeared on the plate like a modern painting.

Even a sirloin steak ($33) has been cut into odd-shaped pieces to make it seem new and different, and is served with a cast-iron pot of cheese grits with nutmeg. The greens are sweet and sour with raisins. Slow-poached Atlantic blue cod ($26) features an orange romesco sauce of red bell peppers, olives, and little potatoes.

The owners of Bin Osteria also own a great wine bar, Bin 26 Enoteca, so they have all kinds of unusual and delicious wines. Try their own label, 2006 Bin 26 "Solare," by the glass. This is a sangiovese/merlot blend from Umbria ($11) with the spicy, vegetal flavor of the merlot on top. Or the 2006 Romand Cave de la Côte Dubaril ($6), which is listed as gamay/pinot noir, but is actually all gamay grapes. It comes from Switzerland, instead of Beaujolais, so the wine has more cherry than strawberry on the nose. For something white, a real Italian pinot grigio, 2007 "Alefurlan" ($9), is fruity and crisp.

Desserts, by the chef's wife, are where the intensity lets up at Bina Osteria. The best I tried was the most conventional: risotto brélée ($11), just rice pudding with a burnt-sugar crust. "Warm Gianduja Chocolate Truffle" ($11) is a shell of molten-chocolate cookie, with some great hazelnut gelato. An Anjou pear tart with almonds ($11) was so complex the pear flavor got lost with most of the rest. And "Moscato d'Asti Mousse" ($11) is a foam based on Muscat wine. It smells like orange blossoms, but tastes like ginger ale. I liked the orange sorbet and broken meringue cookies underneath.

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