May 17th, 2010

Game is the name of the game? Bina Osteria, Boston

Bina Osteria is located in the Ritz-Carlton residences, a stone’s throw away from the Boston Opera House, making it a perfect place for a quick dinner before a show. Carol and I went to see Ultimate Balanchine, a showcase of three of his shorter ballets on Thursday and we had the three course prix fixe “Curtain Call” menu.


I had a venison carpaccio to start, a wild boar goulash for an entrée and crème caramel for dessert. The venison was a bit gamey, as one would expect, but not that flavorful and the meat had a mushy texture – not appealing. The boar was dry, dry and more dry. It was undistinguishable from a classic braised short rib that had been massively over cooked. I don’t know why I picked two game selections; it just seemed right. I was so wrong.


Carol’s tuna bocconcini was a tuna tartare mixed with ricotta, which give it a weird texture. Her hanger steak was the winner of the night; it was tender, flavorful and cooked correctly. She had tiramisu for dessert and it came sheathed in a layer of chocolate, which just seems wrong to me.


The service was good and speedy, exactly what you want when trying to make a 7pm show. Bina is yet another entry in the long list of upscale Italian restaurants in Boston and there is nothing to draw me back to this one.

Sensing, Boston

It was a big deal when it was announced that Guy Martin, 3 star Michelin chef from France, was opening a restaurant in the US. Was it to be in NYC? San Francisco? DC? Nope, he chose Boston to open Sensing at the Fairmont Battery Wharf. So, of course, Sensing is on my 2010 restaurant list. Sadly, the meal did not live up to the hype.


We had the 5 course tasting menu ($75 per person):


We started with a tasting plate of 6 small bites:

Island Creek oyster with shallot and vinegar granite – Just an oyster, nothing special
Fried quail egg, chive cream cheese, bacon – Weird texture on the quail egg.
Beef empanada with spicy cranberry dip – I liked the surprising combination of beef and cranberry.
Parsnip tonka bean shooter – Flat and flavorless; it desperately needed salt.
Mushroom crème brûlée – Easily the best thing on the plate. I could have eaten a large serving of the perfectly smooth, creamy and earthy custard, but I’m a sucker for a savory flan.
Cipollini onion soup – It was not a soup, but a stewed baby onion with a slice of cheese on top - fun concept, poor execution.


Asparagus soup, almond and polenta – The soup itself was good, I liked the unusual pairing of almonds and asparagus, but the shriveled, dry and chewy polenta croutons were a grave misstep. It was like corn jerky. I would not have sent that out of my kitchen.


Gulf of Maine hake filet, passion fruit and carrot purée and Chinese black rice – the fish was cooked well, and the black rice was unique, but I did not like passion fruit in the carrot puree. R likes to make a carrot puree for Thanksgiving and I think his version is better – take that Guy Martin!


Beef strip loin served with chives pancakes, Dijon mustard sabayon – The beef was cooked correctly, but on the leaner side, so less flavorful. The chive pancakes were a limp disappointment. The mustard sabayon was the best thing on the plate. I may steal this idea and tinker with making my own version


Yuza Crystalline – I love citrus desserts, so this was right up my alley. The presentation was striking; a small fishbowl with a lime jello on one side, a yuzu curd on the other, topped with lime sorbet and a sugar top to cover the opening of the bowl. R was left unsatisfied and if it wasn’t for the sudden downpour, I’m sure we would have walked over to the North End for a cannoli.


Service was excellent, but I found the décor strangely sparse. I was not a fan of the bare tables; if I’m paying that much for a meal I want a linen tablecloth. My sense is that I will not be returning to Sensing.