Wanting to take the girlfriend someplace special for her birthday, I decided to give Cibo Trattoria a go, despite not knowing anyone with firsthand experience at the establishment. It turns out to have been a choice well made, for by the end of the evening both she and I had our expectations not only met, but exceeded.
Cibo is definitely not your typical North-Americanized Italian eatery. There’s no garlic overkill. No ladles of sauce. Portions are decently sized (but not small), making it easy for a diner to indulge in three or more courses without feeling like an overstuffed walrus afterward. The focus is clearly on using the best ingredients and presenting them in a simple (deceptively so, I’m sure) fashion that allows them to shine.
After a few bites of tasty herbed bread and a couple of glasses of celebratory prosecco, we began the dinner proper with a shared spot prawn crudo. Frankly, this dish was to die for. The prawns were generously drizzled in an olive oil unlike any I’ve ever tasted before. Our incredibly helpful server Tomas informed us that some guests are actually brave enough to eat the raw prawn heads. This appetizer was so good, we were almost tempted to try.
For our pasta course, my girlfriend had tagliatelle with mushrooms – rich and earthy, while I went with the agnoli with veal – meaty parcels with a citrusy kick. Any praise for Cibo’s freshly made pasta is rightly deserved. Both were delicious. For the mains, the girlfriend ordered the roast ling cod with asparagus and balsamic. The fish was moist, with a wonderfully crisped skin. I had the grilled bison with leeks. The meat was tender, and the accompanying drizzle of bone-marrow sauce set off the flavour of the bison nicely.
To finish our meal, I had the renowned River Café chocolate nemesis – a rich wedge of chocolate that I’d compare to the most decadent brownie/mousse you’ve ever had in your life, while my girlfriend tried Cibo’s take on the zuppa inglese. Along with dessert wine and some coffee, it was the perfect end to dinner.
Service at Cibo is outstanding. Tomas was friendly and helpful, never intrusive, and happy to answer any questions we had about the menu. He was also spot-on with his wine recommendations. The other staff were equally friendly and efficient – our water glasses were never empty, and our table was always kept neat and presentable. The restaurant itself is pleasing to linger within, intimately smallish with a relaxed, eclectic modern-cool vibe, an interesting contrast to the simply presented dishes.
Prices at Cibo’s were fair, especially considering the quality of the food. In fact, in my opinion it’s a better value than the pricier CinCin. Not the kind of restaurant the average person could frequent regularly, but definitely worth a visit on those special occasions when you feel like indulging. We will definitely go back.