It looks like I missed the boat on this place. Bina Osteria opened a little more than a year ago. Executive Chef Brian Konefal (previously of Eleven Madison Park and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon) designed the original menu. Apparently, the food was phenomenal, with melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi and incredible spaghetti carbonara. The space was modern, trendy, and perfectly located in the middle of downtown in between the Theater District and the huge Loews movie theater. People raved about the food here.
But the economy went super sour. And Bina Osteria struggled to keep patrons with its super high NYC type prices. After half a year, the owners decided to change directions: price the restaurant to meet the current state of the economy. But wait. How could these new lower prices work with Chef Brian Konefal’s upscale style of cooking?
Well, they couldn’t. Executive Chef Brian Konefal left Bina Osteria in June 2009. One of the owners, Bina herself, took over as Executive Chef.
Lower prices. New chef. What’s the restaurant like now? We had a chance to find out just a few weeks ago.
Bryan and I stumbled upon Bina Osteria after enjoying a movie in downtown Boston a few weeks ago. I vaguely remembered reading really positive reviews on the place (not knowing its recent turbulent past), so we decided to check it out.
Surprisingly, the 6-course Chef’s Tasting menu was only $45. We were intrigued, seeing that the main entrees alone already cost close to $30. It seemed like a pretty good deal.
It is a good deal. I’m sure the food is not nearly as spectacular as it was when Brian Konefal was at the helm. But you know what? It’s not bad. Fresh handmade pastas, generous cuts of meat, and even some tartare thrown in there. It’s not the best meal I’ve ever had (by any stretch), but for only $45, it’s a pretty amazing deal.
What’s really cool is that the prix fixe is pretty flexible. You get to pick your entree, and the waiter also let us pick out some of our appetizers from the menu, which was pretty cool.
Here’s our 6-course tasting!
Prices in parentheses are what it would have cost a la carte
Tuna Tartare served over roasted red pepper sauce with toasted parmaggiano ($14)
Unfortunately, this was probably the worse course out of all the ones we enjoyed. The presentation was beautiful, and the parmaggiano crisp tasty enough, but the tuna was flat, tasteless, and over all unpleasant. I was quite disappointed with this starter.
Pasta E Fagioli (white bean soup alla Toscana) – ($9)
Even though this dish did not have expensive ingredients, I was actually quite pleased with its flavors. The white bean soup was earthy, warm, and very satisfying. The fresh pasta pieces (probably scraps from when they make raviolis and such) were a nice al dente addition to this flavorful soup.
Maltagliati – homemade chestnut pasta with chicken ragout and mushrooms ($12/$22)
We love fresh pasta, so of course we thought this was a great treat. He gave us two different pastas to try, which was kind of fun. And both were pretty good.
Pappardalle – tuna, red pepper cream, black olives, and capers ($12/$19)
I was quite pleased with my pasta dish. Unlike the earlier tuna dish, the tuna here was just barely cooked, and thus had a beautiful nice soft texture. The sauce was also flavorful and the fresh pasta had pretty good texture. Over all, I was pretty happy with this.
Bacalla Alla Merdionale: salted cod in black olive, tomatoes, and garlic sauce ($24)
It was funny, because my main dish was really small while Bryan’s was HUGE! I actually was so full I only ate half of it. It was alright. Nothing super special, but not bad. Between the tomatoes, olives, and salt cod, it had pretty typical Mediterranean flavors.
Loin of Lamb Millefoglio – layered chestnut tortilla with speck, portabella mushrooms, and fontina – ($29)
Bryan’s dish was more interesting, and really generous! He could hardly eat 1/3 of it before we had to pack the rest to take home. Again, nothing spectacular, but reasonably flavorful and tasty.
The intermezzo – a simple strawberry ice cream – was a nice palate cleanser.
And then ending on a tiramisu. Nice presentation, but I thought it was pretty average. The chocolate sorbet (or was it gelato? I can’t remember) was lighter than a typical rich ice cream.
Over all, I guess our impression was that it’s “not bad” and a pretty good value. If you add up all the a la carte prices, the total would come close to $80 (depending on how much the desserts and ice cream cost). Portions are reasonable. We took leftovers home and were able to enjoy parts of the meal again. They have pre-theater dining options, and are very theater-conscious, which is nice if you do plan on watching a show. If not, one of the best times to grab a seat on a busy weekend night is to go right when shows are starting (around 7:30pm). The place is emptying out at that time, which means no wait.
In summary, I guess if you are in the Theater District and feel like going somewhere with a nice, trendy atmosphere and decent Italian food, Bina Osteria is not a bad bet.
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