Restaurant Review: Bin Wine Bar

St. Paul’s newest tavern knows its wine, but forgets the finishing touches.

by John Sand

âÄúBin Wine BarâÄù WHERE: 400 Sibley St., St. Paul PRICE: $10-30 Tired of karaoke nights at Blarney, the Fashionista and I set off to St. Paul to try out its newest wine bar, Bin, which opened last Saturday . Stepping into Bin reveals a medley of structured red brick and gigantic arching windows, with deep maroon walls and orange Tiffany-inspired lamps perched on the bar. The cozy interior is no artsy dive, more like an interpretation of a charming Napa Valley home winery. Manager Bryan Hudson met us at the door and led us downstairs to what he calls âÄúa rough draft of the members-only sectionâÄù that will function as a speakeasy. Around tufted leather couches, wine racks line the walls where future members will be able to store their own wine and return for tastings. Hudson then took us up through a few chambers to meet the proprietor of Bin, Rebecca Illingworth. There is always something to be said for businesses consistently haunted by the owner, especially when sheâÄôs wearing sequins. Her presence lent the wine bar an air of quaint seriousness. Illingworth, who also runs a St. Paul based ad agency, explained that Bin was a hobby that turned into another career path. She aims to offer a space for conversation, high-quality wine and light fare for less than expected. The restaurantâÄôs triumph, of course, is its wine list. Bin stocks its wine from all over the globe. We opted for âÄúflightsâÄù of wine, a selection of wine priced in two-ounce proportions for just one or two bucks each. After all, how can a college student decide on just one type of alcohol with a three-page selection? The six glasses of wine were served in a miniature crate, with the lowball vessels lined up like colorful, alcoholic Easter eggs. The wines were global indeed. The Malbec from Argentina was perfectly dry and peppery. The German Riesling was crisp and sweet (though a little out of place in February) and the Pinot Grigio from Veneto, Italy, was airy, silky and fresh. The expansive list of wine was matched by an equally diverse selection of small appetizers. The options include flatbread with a hummus twist, toasted chevre with beets and olive tapenade. Feeling adventurous, I tried out the smoked salmon with dill sauce and capers. The three little slabs of salmon were drizzled haphazardly with dill, but there was something less than appetizing about three pieces of pink fish flesh alone on a white plate. My dining companion chose the simple, classic caprese flatbread, which unfortunately looked like something my roommate drunkenly made on a Tuesday afternoon. The pallid tomatoes and overcooked basil left much to be desired. If presentation is directly proportional to taste, Bin needs a lesson in garnishes. Illingworth knows wine, but for the quaint winery to thrive on weeknights, the chef will have to step up his game and kick that light fare into high gear.