Wednesday, February 07, 2007

BIN to heaven

A wine bar with serious wine, that doesn't take itself seriously? A restaurant with unbelievable food, without unbelievable prices? Am I dreaming?

Nope - I'm eating at Bin 8945, over in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. Perched on a stool at the bar, letting David, the owner, pick out a bottle of red and a menu to match, I couldn't be happier. We ask for a good value, an earthy red - and after a few short minutes of reflection, David snaps closed the list and announces he knows exactly what he's giving us.

He sets two large round goblets in front of us and uncorks a bottle of 2001 Paternoster "Synthesi" from Italy. I've never heard of it, and neither has my dining partner, who knows his wine. David pours us each a glass and we take a sniff. Wow. We take a taste. Now we're talking.

David walks away to take care of another table and, as I breathe in the berries and the leather, I think to myself - this guy's going to forget more about wine than I'm ever going to know. And he's wearing jeans and a funky t-shirt. He's waxing poetic about his Play Station 3. That's the kind of guy I want picking my wine.

He's got the resume (Guy Savoy in Paris, Le Cirque and Aquavit in New York, and Aubergine in Newport Beach), but surely didn't bring the attitude. He loves good wine, but is the first - in fact was the first when I was there - to say, dude, it's just wine, it's not going to change your life.

I'm already happy, and then he introduces the chef, Mike, whom David's kidnapped from Ford's Filling Station. (According to David, he dressed for the occasion in black and with hood, stuck his finger in Ben's back and said, your chef or your life. Happily for all, Ben's still breathing.) And the two of them proceed to discuss what combination of dishes and flavors will best complement the wine...

Out comes a procession of dishes, a rare tuna burger topped with a quail egg (which we don't break fast enough for David, do me a favor? he asks. Break that egg into the burger - it will make all the difference. We do and it does.) Monkfish on a heavenly puree of root vegetables. Pork cheeks glazed in chocolate. Each pairing with the wine differently and perfectly. David capped the dinner with a sherry and a persimmon dessert cake.

All in all, I could only ask that more restaurants took a page from David's book. The place, the people, the wine, the food... I can't wait to go back.

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