When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Bink's Midtown Location: 2320 East Osborn Road Open: Two weeks Eats: New American Price: $31 to $60 per person
To understand Bink's Midtown, the new restaurant owned by James Beard Award-nominated chef Kevin Binkley, you should consider the vegetables.
Served cold, served hot, in salads, in soups, and always with Binkley's expert touch, locally sourced and in-season veggies are what set Bink's Midtown apart from the chef's other two restaurants: the upscale Binkley's Restaurant in Cave Creek and the more contemporary-minded Cafe Bink in Carefree.
You could almost make a meal out of the vegetables at Bink's Midtown. But then, how would you enjoy the barbecued octopus?
Bink's nearly 20 vegetable dishes have their own menu, which, when you consider just how good two of them are, may have you planning your round-two picks after the first bite. There's also a listing of wines that could stand more glass and/or carafe options and very good specialty cocktails like the Farmer's Market -- a refreshing mix of margarita tequila, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeño.
An artful arrangement of baby beets, jalapeños, cashews, wild rice, and cilantro in a hibiscus lime dressing ($8) makes for a lively dish with a delicate crunch. And you couldn't be blamed for thinking that the heady roasted cauliflower with sweet dried currants, almonds, and yellow curry heaped into an iron skillet ($6) may be the only way you'll ever eat it again.
A listing of eclectic appetizers is nearly as difficult to select from as the veggie menu, but you could do worse than the barbecued octopus ($12). Expertly prepared, the moist and slightly sweet meat in a delicate barbecue sauce comes nestled in a bowl with black-eyed peas, onion, and bacon for something akin to a Western cookout by way of the ocean.
The entree offerings don't look nearly as interesting as the rest of the menu. Although I'm sure all of them, like my five-spice duck breast with grilled grapes ($18), are flavorful and well-prepared, a more intriguing dining path may be to skip this category altogether and opt for a meal of starters and veggie plates.
Oh, and desserts. Mustn't forget desserts.
There is a tangy and refreshing tangelo sorbet ($8) with lavender puffs of blueberry meringue in a "soup" that's chilled courtesy of liquid nitrogen applied at the table (read: fun!). And if there ever were an argument for an adult ice cream truck, it's Binkley's butternut squash ice cream push pops ($4 each) featuring homemade butternut squash ice cream, chocolate, and tamarind layered into a plastic tube that can be dipped in a crunchy oat crumble. Delicious.
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In the former home of Sophie's Bistro, Bink's Midtown feels like a welcoming little neighborhood spot, albeit one from a James Beard Award-nominated chef (Justin Olsen, from Binkley's Restaurant, will helm the kitchen). The former residence, with its several rooms turned into eating areas, also features a bar, a large patio with a fireplace in the front, and a smaller patio out back. The interior, with its wood floors, tables topped with white linen and butcher paper, wainscoting, and vases holding a single red carnation give the room a easygoing yet refined feeling. It's a vibe that the service staff, still in the learning process and a bit on edge, hasn't quite picked up on.
And if there's any question as to the importance of the vegetables here, they can be seen in several photographs lining the walls.
Out of the gate, Bink's Midtown seems to have few things to worry about. I can't wait to return.