Made it to Cinch in Santa Monica last night, and had a better time than we thought we would.
We had some trepidation because at 6:30pm the place was empty, and after reading some not-too-flattering customer reviews, we were contemplating switching restaurants. Our concern was exacerbated as a jazz combo moved in to provide "entertainment" for our meal. Fortunately we rolled the dice and decided to stay.
We had heard Cinch was more of a club than a restaurant, and the space is indeed very attractive. The bar is beautiful, although why they need three plasma TVs showing the same thing is beyond me. And why they'd bring in live (and quite loud) music before 10:00pm is a mystery as well. On a personal level, I like music as much as anyone, but when I have dinner with three friends, I like to talk without straining to hear.
Regarding the food however, we were pleasantly surprised. The goat cheese tempura was delicious, served on a bed of thinly sliced cabbage and apples. The trio of fois gras was sublime, and if you're a fan of this dish when seared or roasted it is worth the hefty price, as it came prepared in a number of ways, including breaded and deep fried which provided an astounding taste sensation.
The rack of lamb was pretty good, the macadamia crust added something, although the lamb itself was not as flavorful as I've had in other places. The pork loin was quite nice, as was the muscovy duck.
A little disappointed in the wine, it tasted as if it had not been kept at a constant temperature, and had something of a sour finish.
The desserts were quite good, the brioche bread pudding was very tasty and the Smores were a wonderful blend of flavors and textures, although the toasted marshmellows were not as smooth as I could have created, and I think a vanilla bean marshmellow is pretty much indistinct from the ones you can buy in a bag at Ralph's.
Overall the service wasn't bad, reasonably friendly, not much attitude. It was a bit comedic when we discovered we needed another sharp knife and the request was handed off to three different people, but it came eventually and they were at least apologetic. The maitre D' came around and asked how everything was, which was a nice touch.
I don't know if Cinch will last, simply because there are some big growing pains and they need to decide if they want to be a cool restaurant with a bar or a cool club that serves food. They better decide soon, because the place did not have a lot of clientele, and for a new place getting buzz, that's not a positive sign.
Still, the food was good, the prices surprisingly reasonable, and we had a good time, and certainly better than what we were fearing. We may go back -- but you know there are so many great choices in LA, that it could easily become a faded memory soon....