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cvc | Jun 25, 200602:11 PM     9

I can't tell you how many times we've driven aimlessly around town trying to settle on just that right French bistro experience but to no avail. Simple stuff really but we never quite find it. Liked Pastis more before the remodel when you could get a familiar Lyonnaise salad with poached egg, love the setting at Cafe Des Artistes but wish the food were better, like the food at Vert but wish the setting were better, never quite warmed up to Mimosa, etc. Recently loved the quirky modesty of Le Jardin on Robertson; smart cooking with inexpensive product - and she'll fill a flower order in between courses!

We may have unexpectedly found what we've been looking for all this time last night at the new Bin 8945, an American wine bar and bistro, in West Hollywood. Steamed mussels in a coconut curry broth with homemade Italian sausage was a generous appetizer for two at $16 that could easily be an entree on its own. My friend's steak frites for $29 had great peppery and sweet flavor served with amazing duck fat fries reminiscent of those great Belgium fries at Max in Sherman Oaks. My duck leg confit for $27 was both succulent and tender on a bed of flageolet beans, cavelo nero and pancetta. Great stuff! We finished with a generous cheese plate for $6 where you choose three out of five and a warm heath bar brownie with caramel and homemade ice cream for $8. Excellent coffee served in a French press comes from a new producer up the street whose name I can't remember.

But wine is the order of the day and I'll let others here speak to the breadth and variety of the selection. Suffice it to say that we were very impressed and to be able to order the '97 Etude pinot Noir for $45 was welcomed nostalgia. It remains to be seen if Bin 8945 will have the impact of A.O.C. but in its passion and purpose it certainly competes and in true bistro fashion it brings the whole experience right out onto the street, shoulder to shoulder. (Who says there is no night life in L.A.? Whew!) Spring for the $6 valet in back. Parking at Staples Center is easier. $120 for two before tip. Polished and professional service with heart. And try to grab the brain child of this whole affair, David Haskell, for some quick wine discourse. He's the young guy bussing tables, decanting wine and welcoming people. Somehow, one imagines he dressed differently at Le Cirque.

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