Monday, July 9, 2012

No Tea at Bin 941

Bin 941 Tapas Parlour on UrbanspoonIt's a tiny place that's been around for quite a while. Still almost perpetually busy, so they must be doing something right -- enough to price their plates at $18 and still have lineups.

This past Saturday evening was very sunny and the restaurant was empty when the Vancouver Fine Dining Club assembled shortly after 5pm. Our waitress attributed the slow start due to the pleasant weather, which apparently inspires people to stay outside and enjoy it more. I was personally glad to get out of the heat myself.

If, like our group, you came on a strangely slower night, you might find the server's defensiveness of their tables a bit off-putting. We were four at around 5pm, but expecting six in total, so we pulled over a table and a couple of chairs to ensure everyone could sit together. Although there was just a pair of diners who had taken the window seat, our waitress came over right away and re-confirmed our numbers, and also let us know that we'd have to give up the table if we weren't six persons.
If I were a restaurant that had line-ups and patrons forced to eat at the bar by 6pm, I suppose I'd be possessive of seating too.

I'm not a drinker, so I was shocked to be told that they didn't maintain a stock of tea, not even any cheap-ass Lipton bulk-quantity tea. Our server did, however, very kindly put together some hot water and a lemon wedge, than kindly refilled it a few times during the night (they do have coffee, and thankfully don't pressure to you buy bottled or mineral water, the latter often being bitter).

The online menu could use with a lot of updating: Prices are approximately a dollar more across the board, and there are various additions and omissions. What comes out of the kitchen is not necessarily in the order that it was ordered. So if there happen to be several orders of the day's special, they will likely (presumably assembly-line) pump that out first.
The food is at least interesting if not always particularly tasty. And there were a couple of very, er, "interesting" outcomes...

  • Homous, Kalamata Olive, Navajo Fry Bread - $9?
    • Somehow we ended up with two orders of this, probably because we weren't coordinated in our ordering.
    • The homous came in a block and looked like dessert. Definitely firmer than homous just about everywhere else, and there's points for the presentation for it. Three olives were stuck on top, making the whole look like a slice of cheesecake with three chocolates for garnish.
    • In terms of taste, it wasn't anything to write home about, I'm sorry to say.
    • The Navajo Fry Bread is kinda fun to eat. The style here looks deep fried to a deep brown (but is not oily), has a lot of cornmeal all over it, and is puffy and soft/spongy on the inside. It looks big but is mostly air and makes for a nice light appy.
    • Be generous with the homous or you'll be short of fry bread to go with it.
  • Goat Cheese and House Dried Tomato Salsa, Navajo Fry Bread - $10
    • If you think of salsa as the salty, watery stuff you get in glass jars at the supermarket, then this will probably take you by surprise. It's a lot of dried tomato that's a paste thick enough that it'll hold a shape. You get about a half tin can worth of salsa here, with goat cheese mixed in.
    • I'm not normally a fan of stinky goat cheese, but this combo worked out quite nicely. The salsa isn't very salty, and there's a spicy kick to it without being particularly hot.
    • Compared to the amount of Navajo Fry Bread you get, there's a lot of salsa. Unlike the homous, slathering on too much salsa actually ruins it. The flavour here is strong enough that it should really be paired with something. Could definitely have used more bread here.
  • Flank Steak with cinnamon chilli rub, maple syrup chipotle glaze, black pepper pommes frites - $18
    • The fries here are cut julienne thin into long shoestring fries. Not a lot of firm crispiness going on here. It's piled very high on the plate, and drizzled with a sweet black sauce (maple syrup chipotle glaze?) which mostly found it's way to the bottom, where whoever gets this plate last can get a very sweet mouthful if they toss the remaining fries in.
    • The "flank steak" portion of this order is about six thin slices of medium rare steak about 3 millimetres thick at the most. Not much steak, to say the least.
  • Venison with two types of mushrooms - $?
    • Not on the online menu as of July 9th, 2012.
    • Two orders of this came to the table. One order had the thick pieces of venison much redder than the other, so if you definitely don't want it on the rarer side, you might have to inform your server up front and see if they can do anything for you.
    • Very gamey. For me this was an off-putting flavour and with nothing much on the plate to help it go down.
  • Red Snapper with chilli rub on some sort of noodles - $??
    • Not on the online menu as of July 9th, 2012.
    • The noodles had some sort of green sauce. Not too tasty, in my opinion, but it did have some sort of thinly sliced pickled something or other that contrasted the flavour very sharply if you got some of it.
    • The first thing that came to mind when I tried the fish was "crab", strangely enough.
    • The skin was crusted with a chilli powder mix that didn't smell like much but was very strong in your mouth. The brief heat and bitterness obliterated every other taste. I would seriously consider peeling off the skin and skipping the chilli. Or just scrape some of it off to go with the fish.
  • Grilled Flatbread Picnic - $18 - handmade charcuterie, macedonian feta, french brie, sun-dried olives, pickled artichokes, caper berries, arugula, 25 year balsamic drizzle
    • Not a lot of bread to go around, so you need to think ahead a bit to what you're going to have with the bread and what you'll just pick off and eat separately.
    • Probably the hardest item to share since there's not a lot of each ingredient. If you're just two or three people it's probably not so bad. But too much politeness here and wanting everyone to have a taste of absolutely everything will just bog down the process.
    • It's an interesting idea, but $18 for an assortment of stuff thrown onto a long slice of flatbread seems a bit pricey.
  • Warm flourless Belgium chocolate torte - $9 - Cognac-soaked sundried cherries, chocolate truffle centre, caramel café latte sauce
    • This came very hot, in a deep ceramic dish slightly larger than the tall crème brûlée dishes. Probably straight out of the oven.
    • Also came with a small amount of crème anglaise (in lieu of  caramel café latte sauce). Didn't help the dessert much, unfortunately.
    • The overall taste of the torte was bitter from the chocolate, and very powdery. It was also very chancy whether you got any sundried cherry or not.
    • Very dry around the edges where it touched the dish, much more tender on the inside. Overall, I had the awful feeling that this had been accidentally overbaked, so you might have a better experience of it.
  • Ibarra Mexican Chocolate & Bailey's crème brûlée - $9
    • A much more straightforward chocolatey dessert. Nothing spectacular, but tasty enough and definitely better than how the torte came out.
  • Coconut crumb crusted mascarpone - $ 9 - white chocolate cheesecake, warm fuego banana rum spice
    • Best dessert of the three, and pretty good as far as cheesecakes go.
    • Very creamy cheesecake. The smell and flavour of cheese isn't as strong here, and even non-cheesecake persons in our group gave this dessert thumbs up.
    • The rum spice sauce was sweet, but not overly so, and definitely didn't give you that burn in the back of your throat when you have something that is overly sweet.
I was going to duck out early, so I was surprised when the bill came with everything on it. For our party of 7, they put down a mandatory 18% tip.
My portion was easily calculated, but the rest of the table took quite a while to figure things out, especially as some persons had wine and others didn't.

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