For our first foray into the world of food writing, we sought out a classy date-night dinner venue, Bin 77.
The restaurant mostly delivered on its promise of good atmosphere and delicious food.
Located on a corner in Perkins Rowe, the former wine bar expanded to include a lovely courtyard for outdoor seating and a second separate indoor space for the restaurant. Given that it was a hot summer night, we opted for air conditioning. The restaurant is intimate in feel, with big open windows providing plenty of natural light.
But let’s get to the food.
First, we tried two appetizers.
The Creole Devils on Horseback ($8) are a Louisiana take on a classic — bacon wrapped medjool dates, stuffed with boudin and andouille, with a piquillo-tomato sauce. Salty, sweet and meaty, these were delicious and got us excited about the meal ahead of us.
We also had the shrimp and crab au gratin ($12), seafood and roasted poblano peppers in a pepperjack cheese sauce, served with French bread. We ultimately found the dish too liquidy, and the bread was not fresh, warm nor toasty.
The lengthy, complicated menu also boasts reasonably-priced flatbreads with interesting flavor combinations like smoked duck confit and smoked salmon.
We opted for the steak and gruyere flatbread ($14). The grilled tenderloin steak that topped the bread was perfectly medium-rare, with gruyere cheese — arguably the best cheese — tangy horseradish cream, truffle oil, chive oil and arugula.
Maybe having one too many oils, the flatbread was a tad greasy. The flavors were good, but the steak didn’t seem like it belonged — it was a bit hard to eat.
The highlight of the night was a porcini crusted lamb chop ($27). It was served with boiled peanut hummus, truffle and veal cheek orzo and a lamb fat bernaise. This was a great portion size, and the lamb was perfectly mid-rare and juicy. The orzo was gummy and did not live up to the flavors listed, but all was forgiven because the beautiful bone-in lamb chop itself was a home run.
This lamb will make you put down your ribeye steak, even if you aren't a “lamb person.” It almost made us forget about the terrible red snapper.
The snapper was the market fish of the day ($26 the night we dined), served with smoked crawfish risotto, wild spinach puree, spiced lemon pickles, sundried tomato and artichoke vinaigrette.
If it sounds overly done, it’s because it was. The risotto was very salty, and the lemon pickles overpowered the other flavors, including the bland fish. Texturally, it was also a failure, providing nothing crunchy or crisp to offer respite from the soft fish and mushy rice. It was the only dish we ordered that no one wanted to finish.
The last entree we tried was coffee demi braised short ribs ($22), braised for 24 hours and served with parmesan grits, greens and fried garlic chips. This was another winner. The meat was tender and rich. We hate overcooked greens, but these had good crunch and enough vinegar to cut through the unctuous meat. The only complaint was the lack of coffee flavor promised by the menu.
We ended the night with a beautifully presented brulee cheesecake ($8), served with raspberry coulis and Chantilly cream. The brulee provided a crunchy, sugary top as a lovely contrast to the creamy cheesecake below. It was lighter and fluffier than traditionally dense cheesecakes, which we appreciated after a heavy meal.
Overall, this was a delicious dinner. But what the restaurant offered in food, it lacked in service. Our server never introduced himself, and we thirsted for water and wine for much of the night with empty glasses. The food took quite a long time to get to our table, but there was never an apology or explanation. Also, for a restaurant that built its reputation on a wine bar, our very busy server spent no time trying to explain the wine list or cocktail menu.
Bin 77 could potentially suffer from how long and convoluted its menu is and how many flavors are incorporated into each item. But everything we ate, except for the unfortunate fish, was mostly delicious and worthy of another visit.