After much anticipation, a group of us (5 people) went to Cinch last night for dinner. For having been open for only about a month, it was quite packed for a Monday night, which I think explains some of the discrepancies we experienced, but more on that later.
First of all, the decor, which was done by Dodd Mitchell, was interesting and dramatic, but I don't think it was his strongest work. The room is very distinctly divided into several areas, a small, dark sushi bar in the front, with the main dining room in the middle and another room in the back. Apparently, the bar upstairs is closed during the work week for private parties (or so our server told us, but, considering it was his 3rd day there and he was often at a loss of words when questioned about things, I am not sure if this is really the case). Anyway, I can launch into a much deeper discussion about the design faults in the restaurant, but I will spare you the details and simply describe the food.
Fortunately, I went with people who were all interested in sharing their plates, so I got to taste a good portion of the menu.
For appetizers we had:
The monkfish and shitake mushroom soup, which was the best of all the appetizers. It was a really rich broth (I think they used a beef stock, so vegetarians should beware), packed full of fresh shitake mushrooms, which happen to be in season, with a 3-4 ounce portion of steamed monkfish. Very intense in flavor, but delicious, and a nice size portion, not too large, not too small.
The tataki of Australian Wagu beef was also a very good appetizer with a subtle but complimentary vinaigrette and a gentle scattering of watercress leaves that provided a nice bitter contrast.
The arugula salad and the garden salad were both fair and not overly dressed, but not particularly noteworthy.
The freshwater prawns, however, were a true disappointment. I was curious as to what tea-smoked prawns would taste like and I am normally a huge fan of seaweed salad, but despite the presentation being dramatic (they served the prawns still in their shell, split in half), the flavor simply wasnt there. It was crying for more salt and the shells of the prawns completely hid the miniscule seaweed salad that was all but lost on the bottom of the plate.
The wine list was pretty extensive and surprisingly affordable. Unfortunately, we almost finished the bottle of wine we ordered before our entrees came. I think the restaurant was just working out its kinks, being really busy for a Monday night and the server did stop by and tried to explain that they were really swamped in the kitchen, but, we were all getting really hungry waiting more than half an hour for the entrées.
When we received our dinners, it was apparent what had happened. All of our plates arrived lukewarm, except for the soba noodles, which was still steaming hot from the wok.
The pappardelle pasta with clams and mussels was average, at best. It was crying for more sauce and the mussels needed to be soaked in some salted water overnight because I found sand in most of them. It would have helped if either the noodles were thinner, or the sauce was thicker, because it was simply not a good dish.
The angel hair pasta with lobster did not have any lobster to speak of, nor did it have any seafood-like flavor. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of garlic used in this dish.
The duck breast was served completely well-done, despite asking for it medium-rare. The squash cake was gummy and the foie gras was nowhere to be found.
The lamb chops were tasty enough, but again it was served well-done, which I think completely loses the point of ordering lamb chops. Really, for well done lamb, the shanks are the way to go.
The soba noodles with twice cooked pork was the best dish of the five we tried. The flavor was nice and intense, but with only ½ a stalk of baby bok choy, it was hard to finish the dish because the richness of the sauce and pork became too heavy towards the end, without some sort of crunchy or lighter texture to offset it.
Fortunately for the restaurant, despite our newly lowered expectations, the desserts turned out to be really delicious. We tried ordering the chocolate purist, but after being informed that it would take 15-20 minutes, we settled on the chocolate pudding, the apple tart, and the strawberry panna cotta. They were all surprisingly well executed, especially the chocolate pudding which was one of the better chocolate desserts I have tried to date (at least for someone like me who isnt crazy about all-chocolate desserts).
Overall, I would pay them another visit in a year, perhaps after they have worked out some of its issues. Its a hard call if all of the tables dishes arent ready at the same time. To leave plates sitting under the heat lamp for too long can completely ruin a dish. In this case, unfortunately, I think both the lamb and the duck might have been much better if served immediately upon plating.
Sorry, this message is so long. I would be interested to read other reports on this restaurant. I think it has potential and would like to know if we simply ordered the wrong things.
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