Amid the leafy scenery of historic Chestnut Hill sits one of the city’s finest Asian restaurants: CinCin. The brilliance of owner Michael Wei combined with the superior culinary talents of Head Chef Jimmy Huang allows diners to enjoy Asian- and French-fused dishes in an atmosphere that features serene colors and beautiful etched glass. The food is a flawless combination of two cultures that creates a taste different than most. A full bar and friendly service from an accommodating staff puts this place amongst Chestnut Hill’s best. It’s elegant enough for date night but also great for family night. Make a reservation because this spot is fairly renowned and tables fill up fast.Read More ...
Chestnut Hill in northwest Philadelphia is located within city limits, but from its historic mansions and leafy streets, you would never know it. Known as the “suburb in the city” this neighborhood features tree-lined sidewalks, remarkable buildings and houses, eclectic little shops of all kinds and restaurants that both residents and tourists frequent. Along Germantown Avenue sits CinCin, a restaurant that throws a curveball at Chinese fare. Here the food is unique, the ambiance is charming and the prices don’t reflect the neighborhood’s high per-capita income.
What better medium than food to mingle East and West? CinCin has been offering Asian and French fusion since it opened in 1996. It is one of many Philadelphia-area restaurants owned and operated by the rather well-known Michael Wei. Wei’s superior management skills—proven through his many successful area restaurants including the Mandarin Garden and Yangming–-combined with the culinary expertise of head chef Jimmy Haung consistently creates locally-renowned masterpieces of both Asian and French essence. This teamwork has earned CinCin several prestigious honors—to name a few: “Best of Philly” by Philadelphia Magazine, “Best Chestnut Hill Restaurant” by The Mainline Times, and an Award of Distinction from the Zagat Survey.
CinCin has also been honored for its excellence in interior design by The American Institute of Architects. This prestige is noted as we approach the dark, wooden double doors and see the word “CinCin” etched gracefully into the glass window pane. The award-winning design is all the more obvious when we step inside and instantly feel light from the simple elegance of the atmosphere. The decor is modest, but while unpretentious, it does not lack in allure—a natural, simple, effortless appeal that most present-day restaurants are unable to achieve.
The walls, painted in peach, blend into a ceiling of sky blue. The colors are calm and set a serene notion about the place. Dome-shaped lighting fixtures that radiate a bright glow hang from exposed wooden rafters. Abstract art adorns the walls and compliments the dark wooden furnishing. There are two somewhat small dining rooms, but a clever placing of mirrors makes the restaurant appear larger so that patrons don’t feel cramped. The tables are stylishly set with soft pink napkins and graceful vases that each hold a single flower.
An elegantly furnished separator divides the dining room from the bar and kitchen areas. It’s tall and well-designed with panes of glass, the largest of which is engraved with a bird-of-paradise design and is further embellished with Chinese lettering. A soft light illuminates the etched glass so that it stands out as the restaurants main attraction. It stands tall and elegant—simply breathtaking. The bar sits on the other side of the separator and is furnished with exquisite polished wood. It is a softly lit area and it is stocked with top-shelf liquor.
Despite the generally calm decor, the dining room is vibrant and alive with conversation. Close seating allows you to be friendly with neighboring diners, although is less suited to private conversation. A small number of tables encourage reservations for a Friday or Saturday night. But if you must wait, any length of time will feel lessened if you have a seat at the bar and indulge in a glass of fine wine or a crisp, classic martini. Ask to see a drink list or request anything you like—CinCin’s bartenders are eager to please.
The menu features foods that are primarily Asian but with a French twist. That’s not to say that there aren’t any French dishes with Asian flourishes—there are in fact several. However, most dishes are Asian with French embellishments such as a variety of lush, tasty sauces. No matter what culture the dish reflects, the presentation of everything looks tempting—clean, fresh and pleasingly arranged on sparkling white plates. We try to concentrate on the menu, but the dishes arriving to neighboring tables are hard to look away from.
We begin with the Spring Rolls for an appetizer—chicken, shrimp, vegetables and herbs wrapped in a piping-hot, flaky pastry. A bite into these little crusty delights reveals full pieces of tiny, tender shrimp and small chunks of white meat chicken. The meat is warm and fresh and the tastes of the herbed vegetables are flavorful. These rolls are different from typical Chinese take-out spring rolls that are often bountiful in grease; these are grease-free and rather crispy and fresh tasting.
Some of us get soup to precede our entrees and some of us get salad. Either choice is a good one. The Chicken Cesar Salad—a summer special—is an example of how CinCin puts an Asian twist on even a mainstream Italian/American dish. The salad is fresh and the dressing is light and packed with traditional Cesar flavor, but the chicken is what makes this dish different. It comes atop the bed of fresh lettuce still warm, and is marinated in savory Asian spices so it is jam-packed with spicy, tangy flavor with an Asian overtone. This small detail makes a huge difference in this salad by transforming it from your everyday Cesar salad to one with CinCin’s signature fused twists.
For a main course there are all different meats and seafood combinations to choose from. Chicken, pork, beef, duck, veal, seafood or vegetarian—CinCin offers recipes featuring a variety of each—all of them rich with accompaniments and usually with a bowl of soft, warm brown rice to boot. The Merlot Veal Escallops are especially delicious—thin cuts of tender veal immersed in a lush merlot sauce and embellished with sun dried tomatoes, pearl onions and snap peas. The snap peas stay moderately crisp despite the abundance of sauce and go great with a mouthful of veal. The brown rice soaks up the extra sauce and makes for a very filling and satisfying main entrée. A glass of brawny Rhône goes well with the entire combination.
The Shrimp and Scallops in a lemongrass sauce is marked a healthy choice by meeting the standards of Abington Memorial Hospitals eat Heart-y program, a local program promoting the prevention of heart disease (there are a good number of options on CinCin’s menu that meet the program’s standards and they are marked by a heart symbol). All of the ingredients are immersed in a fragrant lemongrass sauce with a citrusy kick. With crunchy water chestnuts and fresh broccoli and snow peas, it is an aromatic dish that is abundant with large selections of perfectly grilled shrimp and scallops. A crisp, slightly dry, glass of Gewürztraminer tops things off nicely when paired with this entrée.
With all of the filling meat, seafood and fixings in our main courses, it was hard to save room for dessert. Had we not taken a pre-glimpse at the dessert menu and saw what CinCin has to offer for a last course, we may have found ourselves overly-sated at the end. A Chocolate Toffee Tart draws our interest. Smooth silky chocolate mousse atop a pecan crust and topped with a light and fluffy whipped cream and sweet chocolate shavings. This dessert is smooth, light, chocolaty (but not too chocolaty) and simply delicious. The pecan crust is crunchy, delightfully sweet and slightly nutty. Its rather generous portion size makes it a great dessert to share.
CinCin’s dessert menu primarily offers desserts of western style—Crème Brulee, Chocolate Mud Pie, and dishes consisting mostly of creams and chocolates—but Fried Bananas is a dish that is often featured at gourmet Asian restaurants, and CinCin’s are especially tasty. They are served lavishly warm and sweet and just the right, slightly mushy, texture. They come out coated in sugar and peanuts which add a crunchy texture to the dish and make it pleasantly sweet.
The check arrives accompanied by a tasty treat—a fortune cookie for each of us dipped in chocolate. Just one more example of how CinCin masters Chinese food with a twist. And despite our “cin-fully” sweet last course, who could say no to a chocolate covered fortune cookie? Not us, we say as we leave munching on these edible pieces of nostalgia—a small part of what will bring us back to CinCin.
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The restaurant had great service, food, and was reasonably priced.
A friend gave us a gift certificate to CinCin restaurant. We had never been there so we decided it give it a try. There were 4 adults in our party. Everything we tried was delicious. The food was fresh The service was wonderful. We will definitely go back soon.