I was getting antsy, and we were coming up to my fifth restaurant review, and I had a few things going on. 1) My husband and I desperately needed a date night 2) I knew if it were just the two of us, it would be a very small review 3) I was in the mood for tapas or anything inexpensive where I could ideally order a number of small appetizers, be physically and creatively satisfied while getting a few pictures and enough material to review.
I put it out on Facebook and got a few suggestions. Then my friend Heidi threw a new name into the fray: it wasn’t exactly tapas, but Cinko just opened about a week before and all meals on the menu are $5. I perused around on the web and found a few reviews, only one of which referred to Cinko as tapas.
Incidentally, this restaurant falls into that unclear area where I have a list of 40+ restaurants I have always wanted to visit, but then a trendy new place that sounds too good to pass up opens, pushing La Banquise and other little hole-in-the-wall / mom and pop joints back a few notches. Then I realized something. THIS WOULD BE RESTAURANT NUMBER FIVE! It was only logical that Cinko be the next venue up for a visit!
Cinko is located right across from Theatre St. Denis, a bustling part of town. They have a relatively large dining room and use vinyl records as place mats on these tables. They have a small terrace out front, and a lengthy terrace seating about 50 people (minus the vinyl record place-mats) along an alley by the side. We opted for the alley which faces another restaurant terrace.
They have a clever format for the menu: a metal ring holds individual bilingual cards with photos and ingredients of the item. When they run out of something or decide to retire a dish, a simple swap of a card, no visit to the printer or binder is necessary!
Indeed, it was not an urban legend: all meals are five dollars, permitting a few add-ons of additional servings or sides for an additional $2.50. My husband and I reckoned that a typical (read, not celebratory) night out we would spend $20 on our appetizer and main course, so we budgeted for 4 plates each, ordering two at a time, and when our plates came, we would order the next two items on our wish list.
I even asked a waiter while in their short ten days of operating since they opened, how many plates the average party orders. He responded with an interesting formula! If it’s a group of women, they order three each. If it’s a guy and a girl, they order 3 maybe 4 each. If it’s a group of guys, they order five or six each. So, do Pascal, and I fit the formula? Let’s consider a few things:
You need to know this going in because their portions really surpassed our expectations. They are full meal sized with the occasional side of fries or salad that are appropriately side-dish sized. This definitely isn’t tapas.
My paramour had the Fresh Beet Salad to start: what we received did not resemble the picture on the menu as the beets were sliced scallop style, not julienne like in the photo. It consists of red and yellow beets Granny Smith apples, basil, apple cider and ginger dressing. It was also supposed to come topped with caramelized walnuts, but they were missing. We asked our waitress, who went back to the kitchen to inquire and retrieve a small serving of the lacking nuts, who sadly reported back that the prepped nuts had accidentally been knocked on the floor. I appreciated her candor and the integrity of the staff for leaving it out after the mishap! It was peak dining hour on this Thursday evening, and you could tell the staff was in the proverbial juice. Improvising was out of the question!
I started off with the gazpacho which came with four slices of toasted naan bread. Either it was really great or I really missed it because I haven’t had gazpacho in years! They make it with the traditional garden vegetables and that touch of sweetness you taste; that’s watermelon! I loved the twist.
Next up: Breaded Fish Tacos. This does not come with a side order, but a few token fries are scattered on the prepared flour tortilla that rests in a toast-holder style gadget with the rest of the fillings. I don’t think there were more than two ounces of fish in each taco, but the lettuce was crisp, and the sauce was picante. It was filling, but if you are going for a record and want to get a few plates in, I would pass for something unusual and Cinko has about 30 menu items and many fit the “original” category.
We paired the Surf and Turf Burger to come alongside our fish tacos. You get a beef patty topped with a five spices panko shrimp croquette, horseradish ketchup and lemon aïoli. You can have a side order of fries or salad. Go for the salad. It’s fresh, healthy and as for the fries we’re not talking about Frites Alors Belgian quality. They are your distinctive frozen cut up potatoes fried in oil.
Course number three was The Godfather, an Italian sausage in a sliced baguette topped with macaroni and cheese which we saw being served to multiple tables. The combination sounded outrageous, therefore, a must on our list. It also reminded us of a surprisingly delicious hotdog we had at Disney once, where the macaroni and cheese were drizzled with truffle oil! Unfortunately, the Godfather was not reminiscent of this meal; I found the cheese sauce a bit grainy and separating from the liquid, but then you know they are using real queso, not that artificial easily diluted stuff. It also came with a choice of salad or fries. It was a big portion! The sausage comes from a local delicatessen “Ils en fume du bon.”
We also ordered the Tempura Green Bean Poutine. They take crispy fresh green beans, batter them in tempura, fry them and serve them with homemade gravy and curds. The veggies keep their crunch, and it is a “healthier” option to their classic poutine with chorizo, or sweet potato poutine. We loved it. And we were stuffed. We couldn’t make it to plate number four. Which is good, when you consider we were able to have six plates, a beer each and spent less than $45 on a nice dinner to a place we will definitely return to try the other 24 dishes!
Looking around, there were different sizes of groups: multiples, dates, people dining solo and people sitting at the bar just having drinks. They have a nice selection of cocktails and sangria and several beers on tap including my favourite new IPA of late, from Alexander Keith’s Hop Series, Galaxy. Anything goes at Cinko. I’d go soon. I imagine with all invested in the name, portion sizes will have to shrink before they rename the restaurant to adjust for inflation!
Cinko is located at 1641 St. Denis. Open 4 p.m. – 3 a.m. No reservations available.
Let Esther know what you think or send your restaurant picks by emailing her HERE.