July 25, 2008
Keep Your Cin-Cin Up

With my list of prospective restaurants to check out, I began to stroll about downtown Los Gatos last night. At the top, of course, was Manresa, the proud bearer of two Michelin stars, one of only four such recognized restaurants in the Bar Area. I sure would have liked to try that salad of soft-shell crab with "gold dust" peach and basil, or the Monterey Bay abalone with a roast crayfish nage, or the veal breast and sweetbreads with the house boudin noir in an onion stew, but I was underdressed and underfinanced (four courses, $95; tasting menu, $145), so I moved down the list.

Vittoria Ristorante Italiano, however, was "closed for remodel," according to a sign on the door, and Cafe Marcella had closed for good this spring, said the hostess of the restaurant that succeeded it about three months ago, Cin-Cin, which translates as an Italian toast along the lines of "to your health." By this time, I was ready to give up. On top of that, a blackboard special on the back wall caught my eye and prompted me to take a seat. It was a flight of three rieslings, hardly Italian, but not something you run across in a restaurant very often.

While the lineup of rieslings was exceptionally solid, a couple of other pleasant surprises prompts me to move Cin-Cin to the top of my list for my next visit to Los Gatos - the speedy, chipper and smart service and the marvelously conceived and executed food. The menu is New American, with Spanish, Californian, North African and southern American influences as well as Italian. The menu talks seriously about using line-caught seafood, meats free of antibiotics and hormones, and produce from local growers who follow sustainable farming practices.

The food, however, is all fun, much of it listed as "nibbles," "samplers" side dishes and small plates. In short, it's a menu that invites grazing and adventure. Tuna cloaked with a delicate tempura and accompanied by both a Vietnamese mango dipping sauce and feathery and crispy fried baby bok choy ($13), and smoky flatbread topped with Fiscalini cheddar, dried apricots, hazelnuts and arugula ($9) both were vivid in flavor but perfectly compabile with the mostly dry rieslings. Not so much the restaurant's signature sliders, three fat, rich and juicy burgers with grilled sweet onions, a chow-chow of pickled cabbage and cauliflower, and a chipotle chile pepper aioli ($11), but I really didn't expect the wines to stand up to all that power, anyway.

If you're heading to the South Bay this weekend, consider putting Cin-Cin on your own list of prospective restaurants. At 368 Village Lane, Los Gatos, it's open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, dinner Tuesday through Sunday; (408) 354-8006. Here's a link for its Web site.

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