bin vivant’s Pig-in-a-Blanket and Grapes in a Glass

Last week, this bon vivant (of sorts) attended the opening party of bin vivant, located in Kirkland’s Woodmark Hotel—right on the shores of Lake Washington. The restaurant’s been designed to take advantage of its setting; especially at this time of the year, it’s nice to sit by the water (the patio is particularly compelling) and see the Seattle skyline and Olympic Mountains as a backdrop.

At the helm is Executive Chef Lisa Nakamura (Japanese name, but of Korean descent), who most recent cooked at Qube but was previously a sous chef at the famed French Laundry Café. Teaming with her at the “vinocentric” restaurant is Dawn Smith, wine director and sommelier, formerly at Canlis. As previously illustrated, bin vivant has a stunning wine wall as part of the largest preservation system of its kind in the region; climate-controlled, it offers automated pours (choice of 1, 3, and 6 ounces) of over 80 wines by the glass. Soon, diners will have the help of handheld PCs that provide an interactive experience to navigate the wine menu and choose wine pairings.
It’s not fair to judge a restaurant by its opening party, especially when a huge crowd (oh, those elegant Eastsiders) is gobbling up goodies at various tasting stations. Still, I got to sample a number of menu items. Bad news first: the vanilla cognac scallops were surprisingly underseasoned. (I went back to the cooking station later in the evening to see if I got a bad batch, but the scallops were still screaming out for a little salt and pepper.) Other dishes, like the prosciutto fig open face sandwich and the Parisian pizza, were better. My top pick of the evening, though, was the most Asian option: pig-in-a-blanket. Grilled char siu pork, vegetable slivers and herbs were tucked in rice paper wrappers, and came with a char siu dipping sauce (hoison sauce, oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar and soy sauce) that was a refreshing change from the usual peanut sauce. The dish featured my favorite wine pairing: a 2007 Dr. Loosen Riesling “Blue Slate.”
Pairing wine with Asian food can be challenging, so I wanted to learn more. “Some of the most successful wine partners are varietals such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Viognier because their aromatic profiles and overall impression of fruit mirror that of the generally higher aromatic Asian cuisine,” Smith explained. “Aromas and flavors of ginger, lemongrass, sweet herbs, tree fruits, spice, and flowers are common descriptors for the before-mentioned varietals. Often these wines may also have a touch of sweetness that complements some of the spicier, tangy flavors of this type of cuisine.”

I’m looking forward to returning to bin vivant for a more traditional meal, with my eyes (and stomach) set on the grilled Caesar with house-smoked duck breast, and the excitingly ominous-sounding “Widow Maker”: a Kobe-style beef burger with foie gras and truffle pecorino. Should that turn out to be my last meal in life, I’m sure I’ll have a good glass of wine to go with it.

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