Monday, April 25, 2011

Bin 26 Enoteca, Beacon Hill, Boston

I love when a restaurant exceeds my expectations.  I used to dine at Bin 26 Enoteca on Charles Street in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood pretty frequently.  However, after having a few disappointing entrees, I started heading to other Italian eateries to satisfy my cravings.  This weekend though my sister was in town and chose Bin 26 as her birthday dinner location, I had some concerns, but was intrigued to return after a multi year hiatus. 

Bin 26 calls to mind the traditional Enoteca's of Italy.  Basic terms translates these Italian stores into wine purveyors where one is able to taste their wine before purchasing.  Bin 26 calls similar practices to mind by offering their menu as a series of small plates etc that can be shared as one tastes wines.  Their "by the glass" menu is large, and patrons can order different size glasses to allow them to taste just a little of a new wine, or indulge in a larger pour of a favorite. 

We opted, between the four of us, to share several plates of food, some from their smaller plate menu, and two entrees to really taste a wide sampling of the menu.  We selected the Saffron Risotto Balls, the Baked Eggplant Parmesan, the Mushroom and Fontina Cheese Bruschetta , and the Buffalo Mozzarella Wrapped in Crispy Speck as our small plates, and then chose the Scallops over Cannelloni Beans with an Arugula Lime Dressing, and the Beet Spaghetti served with Shrimp as the entrees to share.  

The Bin 26 Saffron Risotto Balls are also known as arancini- those delightful golf ball shaped orbs of creamy risotto, stuffed with cheese, and then deep fried to a golden crisp. Bin 26's boasted the presence of that sunny spice Saffron, and while the risotto did have a yellow tinge from it's use, I did not taste its sweetness in the balls.  I also, however, noted that overall these arancini were under seasoned pretty substantially, so I wondered if the saffron was just lost in the creaminess of the other ingredients.  Despite the under seasoning however, the risotto was well cooked, the internal cheese melted and gooey and the outside crisp from frying was perfection.  Those three elements are really what make arancini textural perfection!

I sampled the Sauteed Mushroom and Garlic  with Fontina Cheese Bruschetta next, and this quickly became my favorite dish of the night.  The mushrooms, tender and well seasoned paired with the perfectly melted mild Fontina.  Fontina is one of my favorite cheeses because of its soft texture and its salty yet creamy flavor.  Once melted it turns everything just a bit more decadent.  Paired with the mushrooms, the garlic and just a touch of parsley this was a wonderful take on bruschetta.

Next up was the Baked Eggplant Parmesan which, despite the beautifully melted mozzarella cheese smothering the top of the artful stack of well cooked eggplant, was again, slightly under seasoned.  The natural earthy flavor of the eggplant drowned against the acidic tomato sauce, rich cheese and fresh basil leaves.  

The Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese wrapped in Crispy Speck and served with grilled vegetables was the last of our small plates.  Though the Speck, a type of ham flavored with juniper berries, wasn't crisp, it did form a lovely shell around the slightly smoky cheese.  The flavors together, and then especially when combined with the charred vegetables, paired perfectly and made for a delicious snack.

Soon after our sharing plates were cleared the two entrees were brought to the table.  First up was the Beet Spaghetti whose name had fooled our whole table into thinking that the spaghetti, it self, would be beet instead of just spaghetti served with slivers of beets.  However, the dish, paired with fresh shrimp was tossed in a creamy sauce and was absolutely delicious.  The beets were naturally sweet, and broke up the monotony of the simple pasta.  The cream sauce a perfect pairing, and tied in the shrimp perfectly.  

I turned my attention to scallops next, served over a puree of Cannelloni beans, and topped with a mess of arugula.  The Scallops were well cooked, though over salted, but worked nicely when paired with the peppery arugula.  I didn't detect much lime flavor, but also didn't miss it while I enjoyed the dish.  I did enjoy the puree of Cannelloni beans very much.  There is something about a well executed bean puree that is just perfection to me.  Earthy tasting, but with creamy undertones, they satisfy the need for decadence without packing in unneeded calories.  

Despite a few seasoning mishaps, I was really pleased with the quality of the items that we sampled.  Each dish was well presented, each had unique touches and each contained fresh, clean ingredients. 

With execution like we saw this weekend, and an incredible wine list- I am happy to add Bin 26 back to my rotation of dining spots.      

Bin 26 Enoteca on Urbanspoon


Alicia said...

I've never been to Bin 26, but I always love when restaurants give the option of several small plates rather than only entrees for dinner.

I have such a hard time deciding!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I really liked Bin 26 but thought the wines were insanely overpriced. Oh well, I guess you go to Beacon Hill to splurge right?!

Meesh said...

I hated my first meal at Bin 26 but it seems like they have since gotten their act together! I should try it again soon!

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