Every January, I eagerly await the Dine Out Vancouver menus, albeit with a little less anticipation each year. I prefer trying new restaurants rather than revisiting, unless the previous experience was spectacular. And it seems that with each year, Dine out becomes a little bit less exciting for me, as I see the same restaurants participating year after year, with few new additions.
I had been to CinCin before, but since it’s been almost 10 years, and the last time was for lunch, does it even count anymore? I decided to pay this Vancouver classic another visit.
CinCin is perched above what is perhaps Vancouver’s most happening street, Robson. Their patio space is quite lovely in the summer, from what I can remember. The restaurant was bustling with Dine Out activity when my friend and I visited for their $38 three course menu.
Service was prompt and helpful. For the starter, I had the Zuppa di zucca (winter squash soup with Parmesan and crostini) – minus the crostini. I had called ahead to make sure my dine-out choices were indeed gluten-free. The soup was sumptuous – velvety smooth, slightly sweet. Eating the top layer with the grated Parmesan was my favourite part. And the soup came at a perfectly hot but manageable temperature.
My friend had the Calamari e ceci (wood grilled calamari with chickpeas, chili, fresh herb and watercress salad). It was a respectable portion size. Although it was good, my friend found the sauce much too peppery, resulting in a rather strong and one dimensional flavor. The squid itself was rather bland, and less tender than expected.
For the main, we each had the Brasato di manzo – red wine braised short rib of beef with wood oven roast root vegetables. Except the menu changed from online, and they were now being served with polenta, which I subbed back for some veggies (fennel and squash). My veggies were very tasty – tender and flavorful. And I was happy there was no problem with the substitution. My friend’s polenta was also good, with a nice smooth texture.
The ribs were a disappointment. They were still “good.” but much less so than I’d expect from somewhere like CinCin. First of all, what is up with that overly peppery sauce? It’s so strong it’s practically spicy and it overwhelms the entire dish. Secondly, where were the short rib bones? It is my understanding that boneless short ribs are a different, cheaper cut of meat. For me, the enjoyment of short ribs comes from the strong flavors that are developed when cooked on the bone, and the fatty goodness that accompanies the meat. In this case, we were simply eating some braised chuck roast, which was not what I had signed up for. I felt like there was a bit of a bait and switch going on, which is disappointing for a restaurant of this caliber.
Dessert is my favourite part of any meal. But sadly, this one was a flop. I had the Castagne e prugne (Vanilla pannacotta with chestnut brownie and prune sauce). There was something at the centre of the panna cotta, which was unusual. Was that supposed to be the brownie? Because the rock hard pile of crumbs next to it certainly lacked a chewy brownie texture. The panna cotta had a very strong flavor and was too sweet for my liking. I simply wasn’t a fan.
My friend wasn’t impressed by the tiramisu, either (house made lady fingers soaked in espresso and kahlua with mascarpone mousse). It had an overpowering coffee flavor. I saw a job posting in mid-January for a new pastry chef at CinCin. I don’t know if this has something to do with it. But these desserts didn’t’ live up to all the great things I had heard about CinCin’s dessert offerings. Perhaps those compliments were from the time that Thierry still worked there, before opening up his own shop.
Overall, the ambiance and service were good. The food was “good”, but except for the soup, not as good as I had hoped it would be, or would expect it to be. Unfortunately, I don’t really see a reason to return or recommend.