Cinch Grill Italian Cuisine

Restaurant: Cinch Grill Italian Cuisine
Cuisine: Italian
Last visited: December 15, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End)
Address: 1517 Robson Street
Bus: EB W Georgia St FS Denman St, Train: Burrard Skytrain
Price Range: $10-20

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 2-2.5 (based on what I tried)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 2.5
Additional comments:

  • Italian cuisine
  • Pasta/Pizza/Panini
  • Casual, but nice
  • Moderately priced
  • Extensive menu
  • Lunch and dinner
  • Couple tvs
  • Beer/Wine
  • Patio seating
  • Open late

**Recommendations: n/a, but if you’re here, then the Braised Beef Short Ribs and the Cinch Pasta

Whoa. 90%+ on Urbanspoon with 80+ votes? That’s high! I was certainly curious and I put it on my restaurant list. I couldn’t think of its location and I’ve never heard of it before either, and I actually drove by it twice trying to look for it. A hidden gem? Perhaps! I was hopeful… and unfortunately I’m still hoping for it… to get better.

That’s the challenge when dining on Robson, Denman or the West End. Even as a local, it’s hard to judge what’s a hidden gem, neighbourhood favourite, and tourist trap. The area is full of all of the above and I try to play it safe when I’m looking for options in the area. On this occasion, it was a desperate time and almost everything was booked for the evening so I resorted to Cinch Grill.

From the outside I was pretty uninspired and when I saw it I had recalled walking by it in the past, but never really paid attention to it. At first glance I placed it in the “tourist trap” category, but the whole Urbanspoon thing made me think I could be in for a pleasant surprise. I probably should have gone with my first instincts, although the food wasn’t inedible, it was just quite disappointing and not at downtown standards.

I like to think they tried, but the menu was way too big and there were a lot of shortcuts. I can’t even say it’s good for the area because there are better options in the West End and especially downtown for Italian food at this price and portion. Therefore I probably wouldn’t come back, although I can see why some long time locals in the area probably love it. It used to be a deli, but during the Olympics they upgraded and renovated to a casual, but nice restaurant. I think as a deli it could have been great and perhaps it just kept that loyal following.

I was really rooting for this small and family owned restaurant, but the food couldn’t lie and neither can I. Personally if I wanted this price range, level of dining and Italian food on Robson/West End I would prefer Cafe Il Nido, Nook, Ciao Bella Italian (haven’t been in a while), or maybe the new Cosca which I have yet to try, but looks promising. Basically, there are lots of options to explore.

I think Cinch is Italian owned and operated, but if they cut half the menu and pour some love into those items and serve them like how they would at home, I think it would be great! I bet they could too! *Finger crossed*

On the table:

Eggplant Parmesan1/6

  • Tomato Sauce, Parmesan and Bocconcini Cheese, Fresh Basil $9
  • This was a pretty sad eggplant parmesan and I thought it was a salad at first.
  • The eggplant was thinly sliced and I couldn’t really tell it was eggplant at all.
  • There was some tangy sun dried tomato sandwiched between the layers, and the parmesan was minimal.
  • It was almost too premade and pre-prepared and a bit dried out and shriveled.
  • The salad had some minced fresh tomato, typical wild greens and radicchio, and I’d really call it a salad.
  • It was drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction, but overall I wouldn’t call it an eggplant parmesan.

Seafood Risotto 1.5/6

  • Tiger Prawns, Mussels, Scallops and Squid, Saffron and Fresh Tomato $15
  • The risotto wasn’t too bad, but the seafood was really not very good.
  • The scallops were barely seared and only on one side and the shrimp was crunchy and not overcooked which is good.
  • The mussels tasted a bit fishy and almost slimy and undercooked. They were fresh, but they didn’t taste fresh.
  • The risotto was a bit soupy and runny, but at least the rice was al dente and firm.
  • There was a creaminess to it, a bit of tomato and a little Parmesan cheese, but I would still say it was runny.
  • The flavour was heavy on packaged chicken stock and there was a hint of saffron in it that I could taste. There was no seafood broth or flavour in the risotto though.
  • There was some fresh basil, but overall I was kind of eating the risotto because I was hungry, not really because I enjoyed it.

**Cinch Spaghetti4/6

  • Roasted Chicken, Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Herb and Truffle Cream Sauce $13 
  • I actually enjoyed this! For $13 it was a reasonable portion and pretty good.
  • The noodles were thin, and firmer than I expected. I wouldn’t mind them a bit firmer, but most people would be satisfied with this texture.
  • It has a creamy sauce that was buttery and flavourful with freshly cracked black pepper, basil and a hint of truffle oil.
  • There was some roasted red pepper and the sauce was creamy, rich with olive oil, chicken pan jus, and a hint of cream and it had good flavour.
  • It’s easy to make, but it was still good for the restaurant and probably as good as a good pasta at Earl’s.

Beef Short Ribs4/6

  • Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs, Beef Marrow, Horseradish Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Potato $18
  • This was the best thing of the night, but I wouldn’t call it Italian.
  • The beans were crisp, the beets and zucchini tender and the roasted potatoes were buttery, creamy and well seasoned.
  • It was a huge slab of short rib that literally came melting off the bone and it was very likely that they were boiled first.
  • It still had flavour though and it was topped with a mushroom pan jus.
  • The beef was quite fatty and the meat was juicy and moist and very tender.
  • I enjoyed the beef, but it’s not really something I couldn’t get anywhere else.
  • I wouldn’t come back for it, but I did enjoy it.


  • $6-8?
  • The tiramisu smelled like Hershey’s chocolate sauce as soon as it landed on the table. I wasn’t keen on that.
  • I don’t think there was any rum, but at least the lady fingers weren’t over soaked and I could taste the coffee. It wasn’t strong espresso, but it was there.
  • The marscapone layers were generous, but they didn’t taste like marscapone. It was more like a sweet creamy layer and I wanted more marscapone for sure.
  • The cake wasn’t dry, and I actually liked it better than the one at Nook (from what I can recall), but there are better tiramisus than both.
  • This settled my sweet tooth, but as a tiramisu it wasn’t that satisfying.


Cinch grill on Urbanspoon


  • Bow says:

    When one eats out as much as you do, and has a “palate”…it is easy to judge the quality in a restaurant by your memories of meals past. The Eggplant Parmesan is strangely presented, I too took it for salad. Now if all the portions were like the Shortrib and the prices reasonable, I could understand the Urbanspoon love-in but I’ll give Cinch a pass.

  • Steve says:

    I have been to Cinch several times and I think your perspective is a bit skewed towards fancy restaurants. Cinch is a place where you would go to eat something and, specially if you can snatch a table on the patio, people watch. Food? That is not as important in this case.

  • Linda says:

    it’s a sad day when an italian restaurant in downtown has worser quality food than at antons and at almost 25% higher prices too!

    i totally thought the eggplant parm was a salad too – i can barely even see the eggplant in this dish because of all the greens and all the dressing – did you even finish this up or move on? lol the risotto looks pretty sad too – where are the fresh tomatoes?! i’m glad the short ribs and the cinch pasta were good so at least this place wasn’t a complete bust!

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – And when one cooks as much as you, you would be able to tell too! 🙂 yes Shortrib worked really well so I wish they had more of that standard.

    @Steve – Fair comment, but at the same time, I always focus on the food no matter what restaurant I go to so I have to write about everything equally. I guess it’s the neighbourhood atmosphere, but the food could improve and it wouldn’t be hard for them to limit the menu and improve the dishes if people are going to be paying for them. The patio experience I have yet to try, but maybe lunch time for sandwiches is better than dinner inside?

    @Linda – I kind of ate it cause it was there, but definitely felt ripped off. the risotto was left behind.. and yes! The short ribs and pasta I really did enjoy… so if I just came in for those…. I’d be happy! 🙂

  • John says:

    I been to cinch many times and every time he cooks good food and I have talk to him he’s seems like a cool guy

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