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Bin 54


BryanZ
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I'm surprised no one has created a dedicated thread for this restaurant. I find this to be one of more significant openings in the Triangle of late and one that, in my opinion, represents the direction Triangle dining needs to go.

About a year ago I joined eGullet and spent a good deal of the spring debating the merits of the Triangle's restaurant scene. While I learned a lot about the wide variety of restaurants in the area, both high and low-end, my main contention remained unresolved. The Triangle had numerous "traditional" restaurants (ie some solid ethnic restaurants, very good New Southern ones, some decent French bistro cuisine) or ones that seemed several years behind culinary hotbeds like NYC, Chicago, and Washington D.C. While I learned that it was foolhardy to expect the country's best and most cutting-edge here in the Triangle, I wanted more restaurants that represented some of the more current trends in moderately upscale dining.

Bin 54 fits this bill very nicely. The food here is by no means Dufresne or Achatz, but it does represent a significant frame-shift in American steakhouse cuisine and restaurant design. The food is inspired by the likes of Laurent Tourondel, the menu reads similar to Tom Colicchio's Craft, the elegant stemware is the same as at Paul Liebrandt's Gilt, and the flatware is evocative that of used in Danny Meyer's The Modern. All of this exists in a somewhat obscure stripmall in Chapel Hill.

I recently had dinner with Chef Dale Ray and found the food to be legitimately stimulating. Again, we're not talking avant garde, but rather a sound representation of the New American steakhouse. I will post full comments on the food and such at a later date, but for now I felt compelled to bring some attention to a restaurant that is not only trendy but worth eating at, too.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Bin 54 is an idea that came from Chef Charlie Deal (detlefchef) and restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, one of three restaurants the team has opened in the last several months (click here for a thread regarding these restaurants). Once Bin 54 and Jujube opened, Charlie decided he wanted to focus his efforts on one restaurant, Jujube. So he exchanged his interests in Grasshopper and Bin 54 for a majority stake (no pun intended) in Jujube. As a result, we have three new and noteworthy restaurants in the area. Grasshopper is mostly about the vibe. The food is decent, but based on reports from others, it's up and down. However, it's probably THE place to go right now in Durham.

Jujube, on the other hand, is all about the food according to my friends. Sure, it's a beautiful space and has a very cool bar, but Charlie Deal is there every night, focusing on the quality. Go to Chapel Hill soon and support a fellow eGulleteer!

Bin 54 is doing well, which is not a surprise. Deal actually went to New York to look at what Laurent Tourondel was doing with his BLT Steak. That's the model Deal used, but it is no duplicate. I've heard nothing but great things about the place, and I look forward to a more detailed report from you, Bryan.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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No offense to Charlie but it is clear that the success of Bin 54 (which, by the way, is a truly great restaurant) is mostly due to Chef Dale, sous Chef Andrew, Pastry Chef Gwen, General Manager Brett, Captain Doug and the rest of the hardworking staff.

Also, re: Grasshopper - The food has never been better and more reasonably priced then since Chef Matt took over.

Bin 54 is an idea that came from Chef Charlie Deal (detlefchef) and restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias, one of three restaurants the team has opened in the last several months (click here for a thread regarding these restaurants).  Once Bin 54 and Jujube opened, Charlie decided he wanted to focus his efforts on one restaurant, Jujube.  So he exchanged his interests in Grasshopper and Bin 54 for a majority stake (no pun intended) in Jujube.  As a result, we have three new and noteworthy restaurants in the area.  Grasshopper is mostly about the vibe.  The food is decent, but based on reports from others, it's up and down.  However, it's probably THE place to go right now in Durham.

Jujube, on the other hand, is all about the food according to my friends.  Sure, it's a beautiful space and has a very cool bar, but Charlie Deal is there every night, focusing on the quality.  Go to Chapel Hill soon and support a fellow eGulleteer!

Bin 54 is doing well, which is not a surprise.  Deal actually went to New York to look at what Laurent Tourondel was doing with his BLT Steak.  That's the model Deal used, but it is no duplicate.  I've heard nothing but great things about the place, and I look forward to a more detailed report from you, Bryan.

Edited by vinmike (log)
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The staff at Bin54 is really great. They know what they're doing and what they're after. As far as I'm concerned, you can't get much better than that. Too often there's a disconnect between managment and service staff, between the kitchen and the rest of the staff, between the diner and the servers. Bin 54 just seems "tight" to me.

I also have found Grasshopper to be quite good recently. It's funny that we've got what's essentially an old-school French bistro and a new-age Pan-Asian bistro being run by the same guy.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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No offense to Charlie but it is clear that the success of Bin 54 (which, by the way, is a truly great restaurant) is mostly due to Chef Dale, sous Chef Andrew, Pastry Chef Gwen, General Manager Brett, Captain Doug and the rest of the hardworking staff.

The first thing Charlie told me about Bin 54 was that they got very lucky and found a great chef. He said that once the chef was found, there wasn't much he had to do.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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No offense to Charlie but it is clear that the success of Bin 54 (which, by the way, is a truly great restaurant) is mostly due to Chef Dale, sous Chef Andrew, Pastry Chef Gwen, General Manager Brett, Captain Doug and the rest of the hardworking staff.

Also, re: Grasshopper - The food has never been better and more reasonably priced then since Chef Matt took over.

Mike is absolutely correct. The last significant thing I did to help Bin was fix the walk-in cooler on opening night. Since then, I can really only take credit for keeping the staff well stocked with sugar-free red bull. Something, mind you, that should not be taken lightly.

As for the food (something that oddly has yet to actually be discussed in this thread yet)... While I've enjoyed essentially everything I've eaten there, I can't say enough about the hanger steak. That is one delicious piece of meat! If it's flavor you're looking for...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Despite the number of times I'd sampled a plate of food here and there from Bin, I had yet to actually sit down and get the complete experience until twice in the last two nights. Once at a large party of Italian winemakers and once with my wife on her birthday. While it would be safe to assume that my familiarity with the restaurant would result in preferential treatment, I can honestly say that, looking around, it seemed that everyone else was getting the same level. That level being outstanding. Absolutely everything you could need was brought as you needed it. When our waiter noticed from accross the room that I had taken the last wasabi cracker for my tuna tartare, another dish was brought. That kind of thing. While we had a specific waiter, every server on the floor worked together to take care of all the tables. Honestly, I could go on about the service, but let's just move on and say that I honestly can't imagine how it could be better.

As for the food...

The aforementioned tartare is a perfectly understated dish. Brightly seasoned raw tuna belly, spicy mustard, and tasty little crackers. Not much else to say here but that I could eat a pound or two of it.

The foie gras itself is the best I've had. Honestly, I think what makes it so is the fact that they start with a big piece. That means they can get a nice sear on the outside but still have plenty of decadent, slightly warmed middle. To be completely honest, I'm not a huge fan of the complete dish as I think the polenta served with it doesn't work as well as other mediums I've experienced.

The watercress and endive salad is clean and satisfying with a playful contrast of grapes and blue cheese. Would I ultimately prefer they lay off the grapes until summertime? I suppose, and I ordered it without noticing them on the menu (though I imagine it's written there). None the less, it's a damned fine salad.

As for the entrees. The first night I had the pork chop along with the dried cherry sauce. As I was zeroing in on that sauce choice (pork and cherries being a rather classic combo), my waiter was on the verge of suggesting the same thing (which demonstrates a nice and thorough knowledge of the food). I requested it medium rare and it came out text book. Essentially white with just the faintest hint of pink. Better still, it was uniformly so from edge to edge. There wasn't an excessively thick layer of char and grey done level with a pink rare center as I often find when restaurants use those silly super high temp broilers. This meat was cooked hot enough to get a good sear, but slow enough to cook evenly. It was also obviously rested.

The second night I had the bone-in ribeye and my wife the Hanger steak. First for the ribeye. That's pretty much the only cut of meat I like past Med Rare. It just has so much fat that it can handle the cooking time and I don't enjoy coming accross large chunks of uncooked fat. It came out just so. It was also amazingly tender. For the life of me, I don't understand why NY strip is the steak of reference. Ribeye has more flavor and is often waaayy more tender.

My wife loves hanger steak and this one didn't dissapoint. Funny, it gets this reputation for being really flavorful but a bit chewy. But you know, it's really not that chewy. Certainly you have actually to use your teeth, but it's not that bad. Especially considering how tasty and inexpensive it is. When we ate at BLT Steak in NY last year, the hanger was hands down the best cut on the table, easily blowing away the porterhouse (there's that NY again).

The sides were lovely. Garlic studded spinach with what appeared to be ricotta salata on top, sweet potato puree that was luxurious and well spiced if a bit sweet for my taste, and king trumpet mushrooms which were freaking great.

Stuffed but undaunted, we split one dessert. The molten chocolate cake with orange syrup and buttermilk ice cream. A great study in contrasts between the gooey middle, the brownie like cake and the ice cream. The orange sauce adds a lovely flavor.

Bottom line, this place rocks. Once again, I did have an involvement at one time, but I'm currently nothing more than a neighbor so I gain nothing from hyping the place. When we were doing research for it we went to BLT in NY and I can safely say that Bin blows it away. The apps at BLT were certainly good, but the sides were completely brutish compared to those I had over the last few days. The steaks were also better at Bin but I didn't eat the same cuts with the exception of the hanger which was great at both places. Both had great wine lists that afforded you the option of getting something insanely good for a ton of money or something entirely tasty for much less. You needn't feel like you're bottom feeding if you want to spend less than $50/bottle as is so often the case in places of this ilk.

Certainly Bin is about as expensive a place as you can eat in the triangle. However, I've never gotten out of any local steakhouse for less than $60 per person (and that's not going for it). That said, I'm usually iritated by several things. The service, the boring apps, what have you. Sullivans does a horrible job with veggies, so for maybe a buck less, you get boiled brocolli rather than the delicious spinach I had last night. At any rate, I suppose my point is that I'd rather drop $150 (or more) for two people and get something truly remarkable than drop $120 and feel like I should have just stayed home. If you're going to splurge, go somewhere that approaches every detail the way Bin does.

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Hey thanks for this thread. My first night in town (August '05), after driving hours and getting in at 9 p.m., my wife daughter and I went to Grasshopper, mainly because my daughter loves noodles (a true Seattle child), and it was open. I thought we were heading into some americanized chinese restaurant, and I was surpised and distinctly impressed: the vibe was right on, and the food was clean and creative, just what you expect from southeast asia.

I am thrilled to hear that this gang is expanding with new ventures, and I'm especially glad to hear it's in Durham and CH, and you can be sure the next place we hit when we're ready to throw down (and when we have a babysitter) will be bin 54; I haven't been to jujube, but i'll be going there pronto, detlefchef.

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I was fortunate enough to be treated to dinner at Bin 54 last Saturday. It was fantastic.

The restaurant was completely dead due to the UNC-Duke game, which was fine with me, it meant we got a lot of personal attention and got to chat with Chef Dale.

We started with the tuna tartare and the foie gras.

The tuna was amazing, so flavorful you could just eat it with a spoon. It tasted very fresh. It was possibly the best I've had, and it was nice to see it executed so well when these days tuna tartare is often an insipid gesture towards some bland interpretation of fusion cuisine.

The foie gras. Well, it was big. It was the biggest chunk of duck liver I've ever seen on a plate. While it was refreshing to see foie gras served without a cloying sauce, I think I might have liked just a tad more sweetness. I agree with detlefchef about the polenta, I think the strong corn flavor detracted from the more delicate flavor of the foie. The main thing is the size, which when confronted with my enormous steak, I rather regretted having pigged out on what is essentially pure fat. It fills you up. It's an impressive hunk but I think less is more when it comes to something so rich at the start of what's bound to be an exceedingly rich meal.

I had the Kansas City strip, which is a NY strip with the bone still attached. In hindsight, I think I might have preferred the hangar or the ribeye. I'm not a very experienced beef eater, so I'm still learning what I like in this category. I had it with the blue cheese butter. Definitely good.

My friend had the pork chop. Oh my god, I think that was the best dang pork chop I've ever tasted! It was delicious, incredible, superlative! He ordered it rare. Wow. I'd never had rare pork before. It was like buttah. He was wavering on accompanying sauces, and our server (who happened to be his brother) suggested the cherry sauce. A felicitous combination, to be sure, and one which will haunt me for months. The pork had this faint bacony quality, which could have been overwhelming, but ended up being enticing. Delicious.

For sides, we had the haricots vert, farrotto, and the wonderful king trumpet mushrooms. The beans were textbook, the farrotto chewy without being gummy, and the mushrooms out of this world. I only object to the farrotto being called "farro risotto" on the menu, but that's just semantics.

For dessert, I had the apples and honey ice cream. The flavor of the ice cream for some reason stimulated dirty thoughts in my head, it was one of those food experiences that transcends gluttony and crosses over into lust.

I can't even remember what my companion had for dessert. We were completely stuffed at that point. I had trusted the wine parings to our server, who chose a Sauternes with the foie gras and a nice Shiraz with my steak, which went even better with the pork and cherry sauce.

This was one of the best meals I've had in Chapel Hill, I'd say it's Top 3, and Bin 54 is easily on a par with some of my better dining experiences in NYC. Great service, great atmosphere, great food, now all I need is someone else to take me to dinner there!

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While it was refreshing to see foie gras served without a cloying sauce, I think I might have liked just a tad more sweetness.

I realized that this sounds like the foie gras was served without a sauce, which was not the case. It was a more savory sauce- not cloyingly sweet like some foie gras accompaniments. The foie sat atop a polenta cake, and the sauce (a reduction of some sort) was drizzled around. I could definitely taste some veal demiglace in there.

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  • 11 months later...

My wife and I had our Valentines Day dinner last weekend at Bin 54. There were some high and low points - Mostly high.

Scallop app was great, as was the wedge salad (served icy cold, as it should be). Both servings were brought on separate plates, which was thoughtful. I started out with an Old Fashioned (which I had never had before). It was OK - I guess I'm not a fan.

Then the steaks came. I went with detlefchef's recommendation on the hangar steak for $22 - Tasted great. I ordered it medium-rare, but what I got was a little closer to rare. I think that would probably be OK on a more tender cut, but I probably would have preferred a little more time on the grill. That said, it was a flavorful cut and went well with the shallot sauce that accompanied it.

My wife opted for the dry aged kc strip for $36. It was fine except it had no flavor and bad texture. Dry aged for a mere 3 weeks, it had none of the 'high' flavors one is looking for when you choose to pay a premium price for dry aged meat. I miss Fowlers already - They had dry aged steaks with real flavor. I think that they were aging them more in the 5 to 6 week range. At any rate, lesson learned. No more dry aged from Bin.

In a cocktail exploration mood, I had a Mai Tai as my second drink. At least I think that’s what I had. It was really good.

Sides we had were fries and spinach - Both good, but not so good we'd order them again next time. Digression - The sorry state of friedom in the Triangle continues. When will this underdone skin-on-the-ends floppy tasteless fry plague end? Thank God for deliverance via Danny's BBQ.

Dessert was chocolate 3 ways - A mini soufflé, a small ice cream sandwich, and something else. What the hell was it... A napolean. With some mint in it. This dish was a highlight that we would order again. Really good soufflé.

On the whole, we'd go back if someone was looking for steaks. Definitely better than all the experiences that I've had at the Angus Barn (never had a good steak there..).

The whole experience was taken down a peg by our actual V-Day dinner at home. Karen got some new york steaks (sic) from Costco which she dutifly left on the counter once she got home. I grilled them over applewood and charcoal - Hers with soy and garlic, mine with salt/pepper/olive oil. They were both better than either steak from Bin. In fact, they were the best steaks we've had all year. Four for $23 rather than 2 for $58.

Side note – Stopped at Piedmont on the way home for yet another cocktail. I tried the Fennel Countdown – Fennel infused vodka with some OJ and something else. I can’t recommend it. My advice:

1) Don’t order drinks with names based on puns. Even good ones.

2) Don’t order drinks with names based on 80s ‘stick in head’ ‘who sang that’ tracks. Even bad ones.

3) Fennel may be an aphrodisiac, but tummyaches are not. Don’t drink it just because you paid for it. A night out with your s.o. is worth more than that. 

Edited by nibbs (log)
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Yeah, the cocktail has potential, but we found that it was too easy to mess up. Our bartender Jake made a great version at the very beginning, then I had another one that tasted like a tootsie roll. Chambord is a dangerous mixer. We're searching for another use for the toasted fennel vodka. The final fennel countdown has been served at the Piedmont....

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