Bin on the lake at Carillon Point in Kirkland is a good choice for Eastsiders looking to splurge or to impress someone special, and a great venue for the grape-loving bon vivant.
Three years ago, when the Woodmark Hotel moved its wine-focused restaurant bin vivant into the waterside domain vacated by Yarrow Bay Grill at Kirkland’s Carillon Point, they changed the name to bin on the lake, still pretentiously lowercase but now possible to condense into the apt acronym, botl.
The original bin opened with a high-profile chef (Lisa Nakamura, now at Allium on Orcas Island) and sommelier Dawn Smith (once at Canlis, now at Café Juanita). The Enomatic wine-preservation system stayed and is now installed behind the bar at botl, dispensing 80 wines by the glass in one to 6-ounce tastes.
What’s new here is chef de cuisine Dylan Giordan, who cooked for a decade at Serafina and Cicchetti in Seattle. Giordan took over bin’s kitchen this past January, bringing a seasonal focus and an Italian sensibility to a menu that could so easily be a yawn.
Recently, he paired roasted halibut with fried prosciutto and tiny artichokes braised with cured black olives. In a rousing “Hallelujah Chorus” to spring he wove pecorino into risotto rife with asparagus, ramps and fresh green herbs. His cool, cucumber-y, strawberry gazpacho, drizzled with aged balsamic, vividly signals summer’s advent.
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Between last week and this, the menu went into full-blown summer mode. Now the halibut is hanging with chorizo-braised white beans and radicchio; the risotto harbors roasted peppers, basil and prawns.
The gorgeous young chicken I enjoyed, with its golden, crackling skin, has not only flown its nest of spring vegetables, it’s flown the coop. Gone too is the beautiful braised lamb shank with polenta and fava beans. Instead look for roasted rack of lamb with balsamic-steeped Rainier cherries, fettuccine with rabbit meatballs and grilled pork chops with roasted figs and sautéed escarole.
The Enomatic wine system allows diners an uncommon breadth of choice by the glass and the ability to drink something different with every dish. Servers give informed guidance and are quick to offer tastes.
A waiter rightly recommended something sturdier than a zinfandel for a formidable wagyu New York steak. Massive and beautifully marbled, it came with grilled asparagus, pecorino-laced potato gratin and a vermouth-splashed relish of chopped Castelvetrano olives and crumbled Rogue bleu cheese (like a martini without the gin).
The dish was a treat, and a pricey one at $44. Giordan has lowered entree prices on the new menu: now nothing tops $40 and there are more options under $30. I applaud the move but the menu’s fine print still includes a split-plate charge: $2 for appetizers, $5 for entrees.
By those rules, had two of us decided to share the steak (nearly a pound of meat) and split an appetizer of grilled blue prawns (four scrawny specimens for $18), it would have added $7 to the bill. It’s a tacky policy for a classy place and off-putting even to those well able to afford a few dollars more.
There was no extra charge for splitting a cheese plate or dessert after dinner. The cheeses included a very strong Roquefort drizzled with honey, a firm, orange mimolette paired with candied walnuts, and a triple-cream St. Andre, a dubious partner for quince paste. Delicate rosemary crackers were piled on the plate and we still had plenty of soft potato rolls left in the refilled breadbasket.
Lemon chevre cheesecake is a cheese-lovers sweet dream, with preserved kumquats on top, a pistachio crumb crust, and pomegranate and saba syrup dotting the plate. A press pot of very good coffee ($6 for two) deserved a pitcher of cream, however, not low-fat milk.
The dining-room staff operates with smooth efficiency, humor and warmth. It’s a pleasure to dine in upholstered comfort in a room with a gorgeous view, one where you don’t have to shout to be heard across the table. But you’ll pay for the privilege.
Though it will be in the expense-account category or the special-occasion realm for most — even with lowered prices — it’s a good choice for Eastsiders looking to splurge or to impress someone special, and a great venue for the grape-loving bon vivant.
Providence Cicero: firstname.lastname@example.org