A delightful experience at Bin 73 earns the upscale snack bar and its helpful server my full support

By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)

Bin 73 server Cassie Negrete really knows her stuff Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Bin 73 server Cassie Negrete really knows her stuff
Photo by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

The evaluation of presidential candidates is proceeding at a furious pace, with the public (hopefully) scrutinizing the experience each contestant brings to the table. Most discerning voters want to know about the candidates’ foreign policy knowledge, executive skills and experience in government. I want to know if they’ve ever been a server in a restaurant, because that develops communication and negotiation skills that I would want anybody dealing with foreign governments to have.

Should she be interested in running, I might be inclined to vote for Cassie from Bin 73. In case you haven’t seen this place, it’s a small patio and smaller bar attached to Mercede’s Grill on Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey. Mercede’s serves Cuban fusion cuisine and shares a kitchen with Bin 73, but the focus at Bin 73 is on wine and upscale snacks.

My brother and I were on the way to another restaurant when we passed Bin 73, and when our destination turned out to be too raucous we remembered passing the cozy front patio a block from the beach. There was one table left and we grabbed it — there are only fourteen seats outside and a few at the bar inside, so we felt lucky. We felt even luckier when Cassie arrived to take our order, since she did all the things a pro does: ask our likes and dislikes before making suggestions, offer tastes of the wines to help us decide, and tell us about some daily special pours that weren’t on the list. The regular list here is oddly imbalanced toward sweet whites, but that night they had a fantastic Sancerre that was easily the best thing on the list.

The food at Bin 73 is very reasonably priced, probably because they can assume you’ll have a beverage or two along with it. The menu has a number of meat and cheese boards that are very well chosen, but we like to find out about the creativity of the kitchen and so we started with deviled eggs with Greek sausage and a cauliflower gratin tossed with herbed breadcrumbs.

I often order deviled eggs, not only because they’re too much trouble to make at home for anything but a large party, but because they tell something about the kitchen. Sometimes they’re hard boiled eggs in party clothes, but other places make them so zippy with horseradish and mustard that you get almost nothing else. The version here was in the middle — the sausage was in slices and would have been better chopped, but the flavors were in harmony.

The cauliflower showed that the kitchen here operates at a high level, the chunks of vegetable lightly cooked and tossed in a delicious cheese-and-garlic cream sauce. Some appetizers only work because their strong flavors are a novelty, but this wasn’t one of them. I’d have happily had that sauce with vegetables on pasta as a main course wouldn’t have tired of the flavor.

We asked Cassie about the merits of some items, and she tactfully steered us toward the ones that she felt matched our tastes. We had one of the items from the kitchen next door — citrus salmon — and the “Bin Favorite” flatbread with garlic sauce, mushrooms, bacon and red onions, topped with arugula and truffle-sherry vinaigrette. At many places flatbreads are simply rebranded pizzas, but this one without cheese or tomato sauce had so many flavors that were out of that realm that it had to be taken on its own terms. It was a successful cross between a sandwich and a salad, with a different balance of elements in every bite.

The citrus salmon was somewhat confusingly described so that it appeared that the fish, capers, mushrooms and truffle fries would all be served over a bed of grilled spinach. The fries with truffle oil, parmesan and herbs are actually served on the side, which is as it should be because they were a crisp counterpoint to the moist fish and vegetables. There were so many flavors in the salmon with citrus glaze, rich mushrooms and barely cooked spinach that eating a fry or two in between bites helped reboot our tongues for the next taste.

Cassie came through again with her wine suggestions, a Valpolicella and a surprisingly light and approachable Monticello Cabernet that was excellent with the fish. I would have never considered ordering a cabernet with citrus salmon, but we had already figured out that trusting your server here was the right thing to do.

Two desserts were offered — chocolate liquor truffles and mousse cake ice cream — and so were some interesting dessert wines. We were comfortably full and decided against dessert, but if we had stayed we know what we would have done: asked Cassie. She had earned our trust, which is what a good server can do without debates, interviews or position papers.

Bin 73, 14 W. Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey (310) 827-6209 mercedesgrille.com/bin73.htm