Sherman's Food Adventures: Cinara


For pure convenience, we often refer back to the hotel restaurant when it comes to dining with the entire family.  Hey, why not?  Generally, they are pretty comfortable and predictable complete with a kid's menu.  Despite major improvements within the hotel restaurant genre in the past few years, we finally decided to put an end to being bound to these establishments.  For my mom's birthday, we were to dine at Cinara and the kids would have to eat whatever was on the menu. With Lucais Syme (La Quercia and La Pentola) and his wife, Gillian Book in charge, we would at the very least have a high probability of a good meal.

Normally, restaurant bread is as exciting as  a Superstore lineup, but I ended up taking a picture of it because it was a menu item.  Yes, it has become increasingly common for restaurants to charge for Bread & Butter, but I don't really mind it.  Sometimes, bread goes to waste especially if it is complimentary.  For those who actually want it, they can order it.  This one was crusty on the outside while soft inside.  Loved the salted whipped butter on the side. Our favourite appie of the bunch was the Chicken Liver Parfait with pickled veggies and crostinis.  The smooth and rich parfait was texturally on point (or should I say on fleek?) spreading firmly onto each crostini.  Once past the crunch, the parfait melted in my mouth with a balanced sweetness thanks to the sprinkle of salt.  It finished off with the essence of brandy.

Next, the White Anchovy with butter, pickles and herbs was a close second to the chicken liver parfait.  The ample amount of anchovy was nicely counteracted by the highly acidic pickled radish and cucumber.  The flavours were completely alive and bright which impacted our tastebuds with every bite.  I could've eaten 10 of these if I didn't order other dishes.  Dressed with mint, parsley, dill and candied pumpkin seeds, the Beets sat atop thick Greek yogurt.  Thick-cut, still firm while tender throughout, the beets were lightly sweet and Earthy.  The herbs were not intrusive while the crunchy and sweet pumpkin seeds added a wonderful contrast.  Thick and creamy, the yogurt underneath added a slight tartness and creaminess to the dish.

Onto some more starters, we shared the Mixed Salumi Plate consisting of prosciutto, fennel sausage and spicy salami.  I enjoyed the selection as it was freshly sliced and naturally went well with the bread and butter.  The prosciutto was buttery and salty, which I paired with the pickled veggies from the other plates. Our last item of the seemingly endless starters was the Vitello Tonnato (thin slices of veal with tuna mayo).  Tender, moist and sliced with the just right amount of thickness, the veal was the beneficiary from a smooth and appealingly fishy mayonnaise.  The sprinkle of capers added the necessary saltiness to liven up the mild flavours

Moving onto the bigger plates, my daughter was completely horrified that we ordered the Orecchetti with rabbit ragu and Parmesan.  She flatly refused to even give the dish a try due to her love of bunnies.  I think I almost made her cry when I shoved a bunch in her face.  I'm such a bad father...  Anyways, the rest of us enjoyed the toothsome pasta and of course the moist rabbit.  Flavours were mildly sweet with only the slight saltiness from the Parm standing out.  So the kids bypassed the orecchetti and happily ate the Paccheri with tomato and prosciutto soffritto ragu instead.  These large pasta tubes were nicely al dente and sauced with an impactful ragu which had a rich meat essence.  There was purposeful saltiness as well as a smooth acidity.

Onto some meat items, we tried the Roast Lamb Leg with polenta, cipollini onions, balsamic and arugula pesto.  Although the lamb was far from being tough, it wasn't particularly tender either.  Some of the sinewy parts were not that pleasant.  With that being said, the pesto added some brightness to the dish while the polenta was creamy and well-seasoned. Sporting a beautiful sear, the Branzino was flaky and moist.  It was accompanied by marinated asparagus, black pearl barley and red wine sauce.  Although red wine is not normally a great pair with fish, it worked here as the acidity and depth were balanced.  Although the fish itself was mildly seasoned, the combination of sauce and marinated asparagus made up for it.

For myself, I wanted to try the Squash Risotto with saffron and Parmesan (and not because I wanted a vegetarian dish either).  Rather, risotto is often a good measure since it is tricky to execute.  It was more or less done right here with chewy arborio rice within a cheesy and creamy sauce (except it may have been just a touch too wet). For dessert, we shared two items including the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with chocolate ice cream.  As rich as the tart appeared, it was actually surprisingly fluffy.  Yes, that is probably the wrong description as the filling was semi-sweet and smooth (rather than fluffy, but it was not heavy either).  The crunchy hazelnuts on top added a nice aroma and textural contrast.

Our final item was the Apple Strudel with Chantilly cream.  With a light, yet flaky and crisp exterior, the strudel was also easy on the sugar.  Inside, there were plump pieces of apple that could've been a touch more tart.  Nestled within, the sweet raisins added a nice burst of flavour in almost every bite.  All-in-all, we enjoyed a good meal complete with great service in a relaxed environment.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Understated elegance
- Great service

The Bad:
- Smallish portions
- A little tight for big groups


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