Binkleys: New chef, new menu 

If you've never had pork belly, you haven't lived.

Pork belly was a huge coastal trend in '07, and while we may have already seen it at a couple of swanky places downtown or even Goose the Market for savvy home cooks and curers, it has finally made its way into an Indy neighborhood eatery: Binkley's.

This is not the Binkley's you visited a couple of months ago. Two new young aces helm the mast now: Aaron Cook, former chef at Capital Grille and Zing, is bringing some gustatory sophistication to the former solidly traditional American grub menu. And new bar manager Robert Diaz, formerly of Chicago's acclaimed Bin 36, has drastically upped the wine menu's quality with an impressive, eclectic array designed to work well even in this economy. It features 40 wines by the glass for $10 or less.

Back to the pork belly. It's featured at their six-course wine dinner next Tuesday, April 28, and I had the chance to taste two dishes: Braised endive salad with oranges, candied almonds, and gorgonzola vinaigrette, paired with Rafael Palacios Louro Godello 2007, a white Spanish wine; and crisped pork belly served with risotto, whole roasted garlic, asparagus, purple fingerling potatoes, and butter foam, paired with Marquis de Murrieta Rioja Riserva 2004, Spanish red.

Curious about the wines? Go to the dinner and try them. Spanish wines are light but flavorful, and, by many standards, still largely under-priced.

And now what you've been waiting for (or maybe it's just me): the low-down on the pork belly. It's a thick slab, basically, of uncured bacon, roasted in the oven for hours to make the outside crisp. The inside is pure, joyous unction - like the fatty part of bacon, but meatier. Those purple fingerling potatoes offer an interesting, almost-juxtaposition in texture; the edgy, bright, light purple beet butter demonstrates how delicious experimental gastronomy can be.

The braised endive salad, thankfully, comes before that climactic dish. This one is straightforward enough - tangy, creamy flavors prepare the palate for bigger things.

Some other highlights from this upcoming menu include shrimp ceviche with Moroccan couscous with cranberries and red peppers and roasted quail over faro with special tomatoes and a fig essence.

These dinners will hopefully be monthly and feature different wines, beer and spirits. Secure your tickets by calling ahead: 317-722-8888.

On the Web: Aaron Cook and Robert Diaz preview their plans for making over Binkley's menus.

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