Bin 100, Milford
Italy and Spain both border the Mediterranean and cook with many of the same ingredients but their cuisines differ, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and it’s fun to find them under one roof as we do at Bin 100.
A corner storefront with minimal signage and an entrance around the corner, it’s not that easy to find, but finders are keepers returning again and again, some for Spanish dishes, some for Italian. You can stick to one cuisine or, as we did, play around with both.
For starters we ordered cold Italian antipasti and hot Spanish cheese croquettes with quince dipping sauce. The antipasti assortment was opulent and notable for the high quality of each ingredient—prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers, stuffed cherry peppers and a medley of olives. The cheese in the croquettes was Cabrales, one of the great blue cheeses of the world. Made only in three mountain villages in Spain and aged in caves, it has a rich, piquant flavor that floods the mouth, turning these croquettes into a treat not to be missed. The quince dipping sauce seemed bland in comparison and in fact really wasn’t needed.
Another favorite of mine, Mahon cheese from the island of Menorca, turned up in stuffed mushrooms, its assertive sharpness pairing nicely with minced chorizo. An appetizer modestly listed as Garlic Shrimp also took me back to Spain, where seafood is held in deep respect and a whisper of garlic will do. Four plump shrimp were presented upright on a flat plate, otherwise unadorned—just perfectly cooked, tender but al dente, their fresh sweetness gently enhanced by garlic and herbs.
Italy came into focus with penne Bolognese, which I ordered because as a staple it makes a good culinary barometer. Red and gloppy? Pale and soupy? Bland or spicy? Bin 100’s Bolognese was just right, a light, bright, almost contemporary version that was still richly endowed with veal, pork, beef and garlic. Cioppino was another case in point. Although the menu sold it short by saying that the seafood involved was “stewed” in broth, it was a lovely medley of shrimp, calamari, scallops and clams, each carefully cooked, perhaps separately, and presented in a shallow bowl with a glisten of intensely flavorful broth.
Spain followed suit with a bountiful paella Valenciana, where each ingredient—saffron rice, chicken, chorizo, shrimp, mussels, clams and calamari—was presented whole and delicious, bathed but not drowning in tasty sauce.
If you’re not enthusiastic about chicken breast (I’m not), chicken Valdostana, a juicy, melted cheese-blanketed version, could win you over. This specialty of the Valle d'Aosta region is sort of an Italian chicken Cordon Bleu, combining egg-battered chicken breast, prosciutto and Fontina, another cave-aged mountain cheese I remember from my hiking days in the Piedmonte.
Dessert again proffered a choice: tres leches or tiramisu. Both were luscious examples of their genre. The tiramisu was classic, made with espresso and liqueur-soaked ladyfingers layered with mascarpone and chocolate shavings; tres leches went tropical with caramelized bananas and coconut-rum sauce, turning the traditional tres leches cake into a fiesta on a plate.
Churros, popular all over the Spanish-speaking world and dating back hundreds of years to shepherds in the rugged mountains of Spain, were originally the size of a breadstick and cooked in a pan. Today, having morphed from sustenance to dessert, they turn up in all sizes and shapes. At Bin 100 they are delectable little logs, rolled in cinnamon sugar to be dipped in a thimbleful of hot chocolate served on the side. Churros and a big cup of hot chocolate was my customary breadfast in Madrid. But nostalgia aside, these churros, freshly made, crunchy and grease-free, are hard to resist.
German chocolate cake was dark, gooey and insanely rich, with caramel walnut filling and chocolate icing. The international set in Rome or Malaga would love it. So did we.
The interior decor of Bin 100 is chic, sleek and urbane, too, with not a hint of sun-splashed stucco or weathered wood in sight. The bar is asymmetrical, ultramodern and as cool as anything in New York City or Buenos Aires. Light fixtures looking like copper flowers designed by Picasso dangle over the tables in the dining room. Walls are diamond-patterned or emulate straw cloth shoji screens, and the satiny MOMA-style blond wood chairs were surprisingly tempting to slide into.
We also appreciated the opportunity to enjoy some of the wonderful wines in Bin 100’s collection, among them an exceptional 2008 Bodegas del Palacio de Fefinanes Albarino.
The price was right, too, with all entrées under $30 and a bargain four-course $32 prix fixe dinner menu with a choice of 11 appetizers, including polpette, certified Angus meatballs with plum tomato sauce and ricotta, and 15 entrée choices.
I understand that Bin 100 has changed chefs and menus several times and has had its ups and downs, but we found much to like on our two visits.
Sure, there are jazzier menus around but while they're trying to out-wow each other with wild innovation, it seems to me there's something to be said for quiet, quality and the good food of Spain and Italy.
100 Lansdale Ave., Milford
Dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 10, Friday and Saturday till 10:30, Sunday till 9. Sunday brunch 11 to 2. Wheelchair access. Major credit cards. Price range: appetizers $10 to $14, entrées $19 to $26, desserts $7 to $8. Four-course prix fixe menu $32.