Review:Vancouver:Robson St:CinCin Ristorante and Bar

While in Vancouver, I had a business meeting  in the private room at Cin Cin, an old school Italian eatery on Robson Street. I was shuffled to the private room which housed hundreds of bottles of wines, some at hundreds of dollars.  Speaking of cost, expect to pay a pretty lira here; apps are $13-18, pastas start at $15 and entrees go from $30-45.   Noise was an issue even in the private room. The only thing separating us and the boisterous outside crowd was a thin sheet of glass and a thick wood door that constantly opened and closed, allowing the drone of human banter to roll in like thick fog.There was a four course set menu featuring an array of choices for the appetizers, mains and desserts with a mushroom risotto as a middle dish.
I opted for tuna tartare to start. It was a large portion on the modest side of seasoning and acidity although I got the odd big chunk of salt here and there. The radish was a nice addition to add a bit of crunch to the otherwise silky texture.

Long line caught albacore tuna tartare
Long line caught albacore tuna tartare

The risotto was well prepared and seasoned nicely. The rice had a subtle crunch and there were plenty of tender mushrooms scattered throughout. It was served hot and it held its temperature well.

Mushroom Risotto
Mushroom Risotto

The sable fish was treated with the utmost respect, its delicate integrity preserved in the cooking process. Ever bite melted like butter in my mouth. The mashed potatoes were subtle and allowed the fish to shine. The kale was simply and perfectly prepared and added great colour, texture and a punch of bitterness to the sweet filet and creamy mashed potatoes.

Sablefish
Sablefish

I strayed from my normal tendency to order tiramisu for dessert and opted for a lemon tart instead. It really wasn’t a tart; it was served cold and with a side of strawberry coulis that brought me back to days of scraping the last morsels of baby food off the side of the jar and shoveling it into my kid’s waiting mouth. The tart as a whole had that “sitting there for a bit” taste.

Lemon tart
Lemon tart

There is pride in the service, characterized but constant wine and water pours by the head waiter who is as well seasoned as the risotto was. The table’s dishes were served  by numerous waitstaff on a way that would make the Canadian synchronized swimming team envious.  I received “Sir, that’s an excellent choice!”  for each and every order I placed, an accolade I’m not sure was entirely deserved, especially in the midst of my tiramisu regret.

My Take

CinCin is a well established and expensive Italian restaurant promising good food, good service and good wine. The sablefish was spectacular and clearly the godfather of the evening. The rest of the food was more Godfather III.   The decor is old school Italian villa; respectfully cheesy while embracing the dwindling art of old school service which is as much choreography as it is  functional. However, there is no music for the dance. Instead there is plenty of noise which could become quite aggravating if you have anything important to say or hear…like how great my dinner choices were.

CinCin Ristorante + Bar on Urbanspoon

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Review:Toronto:Yorkville:La Societe Bistro

I was quite prepared for a posh soiree as I strolled into the small Bloor Street mall, past the Gucci and Cartier stores to enter the lavish environment which is La Societe.  Unlike a number of other French bistros in Toronto, La Societe is quite expansive, with stained glass  reminiscent of  l’eglise and a bar with a Hollywood-like bibliotheque.  Not surprising for a Charles Khabouth joint.  The question was whether it would be a scenic adventure with little substance or if the food would be as appealing to taste as the scenery was to observe.

Must

Perhaps most ironic was the fact that the best dish wasn’t french.  Ceviche is all about balance and La Societe’s version hit the mark.  Aggressive citrus and chili accents elevated the subtle and fresh trio of scallops, shrimp and snapper.  Be warned though…it’s a small portion for about 250 pesos ($21).

Seafood Cerviche ($21)
Seafood Ceviche ($21)

Maybe

The duck confit was a combination of roasted breast and a croquette-like portion of leg.  The breast was quite average due to it’s rather tough texture and unimpressive rendering of the fatty cut.  Hands down, the highlight of the plate was the croquette.  Nicely fried and full of flavour, it was stuffed with tender shreds of duck leg which was nicely balanced with the tangy cherry jus.

Duck Confit ($29)
Duck Confit ($29)

Most desserts were priced in the double digits .  The Tahitian vanilla creme brulee was tasty but unremarkable.    The lemon tart was equally as predictable, tasting less like a rich, tangy curd and more like my mom’s early attempts at a  lemon meringue pie.  The hazelnut chocolate bar with salted caramel ice cream was a bit more exciting but a little outdated.  In the end, the desserts were a bit ennuyeux.

Creme Brulee
Creme Brulee
Lemon Tart
Lemon Tart
Hazelnut Chocolate Bar
Hazelnut Chocolate Bar

Mundane

It wasn’t so much the food, but the value that was quite mundane. Here are a few examples:

Dover Sole $48. Ok. I’ve give you that…it sells for up to $75 in New York.

Dover Sole ($48)
Dover Sole ($48)

Steak Frites $32. Ok, that’s a little steep.

Steak Frites ($32)
Steak Frites ($32)

The duck confit and seafood ceviche were $29 and $21 respectively. Other possible choices included $24 mussels or vegetarian cavatelli, $13 french onion soup and an $18 burger.  I appreciate the  interior like the Louvres but the menu is priced like its souvenir shop.

My Take

La Societe bistro is not a bistro.  Wikipedia defines a bistro as “a small restaurant serving moderately priced simple meals in a modest setting”. This restaurant is not small, the food is not cheap and the setting is not modest.    The layout is expansive and  uncharacteristic of most french bistros (making me question the lack of intimacy),  the food is decent but with markups similar to the Gucci purses downstairs and the decor is anything but modest. To be fair, they do have a decent prix fixe menu at $44.  As long as Yorkville remains the epitome of  lavish spending,  La Societe will blend in but  it will be interesting to see if the migration of the  luxury hotels and accommodations to other areas of town pressures this and other  local eateries to come down to earth a little with pricing.  Until then, I’ll seek my scenery at the Royal Ontario Museum and indulge on ceviche elsewhere. C’est la vie!

 

La Société Bistro on Urbanspoon