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Article posted: 2/6/2013 5:00 AM

Hinsdale taqueria offers unique Mexican experience


CiNe is no ordinary taco stop.

Set within the iconic Hinsdale Theater, this modern taqueria at 29 E. First St., has two-starred Michelin chef Yanitzin Sanchez (previously of Sabor Saveur) in the kitchen ensuring the menu -- on paper at least -- is far from boring. Couple that with a showy setting -- original exposed brick, ornate molding, focal art glass -- and CiNe, just steps from Peter and Dana Burdi's other eateries (Il Poggiolo and nabuki) offers a dining experience unlike anything Hinsdale has seen, yet one that has room for improvement.

We settled comfortably into an oversized booth in the main dining room. Up front, a more casual bar area is ideal for cocktails or a quick nosh. Feel free to order from the bar menu if you go that route.

We began with the tinga tostaditas, two crisp tortillas piled high with tangy, shredded chicken, caramelized onions, sour cream and micro cilantro. It, and the guacamole we ordered, was good. However, our entrees arrived two bites in -- and barely warmed through.

My advice: opt for these or other first-course options -- perhaps scallop-shrimp ceviche, a tomatillo-sauced tamale or beef picadillo empanadas -- before ordering the main event. The same is true of salads, like the Mexican Caesar, or soups, such as goat cheese "velouté." After all, nothing is worse than feeling rushed through your meal.

Understandably, the temperature issue posed a real problem, one that made it hard to see past spot-on flavors of tortilla-layered, Mexican lasagna. Let's be realistic: cold cheese doesn't do lasagna any favors.

When it comes to tacos, you can't pick and choose fillings. As someone who likes a bit of this and that, I found it uncharmingly rigid that they were served in threes. Still, the chimichurri-marinated skirt steak with chorizo, pico de gallo, cilantro onions, avocado and queso fresco sounded appealing. Nonetheless, despite all those components, the tepid tacos were less flavorful than expected. Perhaps the pork carnitas with orange supremos and spicy morita pepper sauce would have fared better.

Whether you opt for black mole-sauced chicken, carne asada or enchiladas in bell pepper and almond crema, do get the applewood-smoked bacon frijols charros alongside.

As for dessert, the house-made tres leches is a triple-layer treat. Tucked with strawberries and airy lime mousseline, it alone is reason to come back. Then again, the cinnamon-dusted, house-made churros aren't half bad -- especially when plunked into amaretto-spiked chocolate sauce.

There is a full bar, with an emphasis on Mexican cocktails, some mezscal-based. We kept it classic with the signature margarita, a wise choice thanks to its refreshing blast of fresh lime juice.

Service was perfectly accommodating and friendly throughout our meal -- that is, as long as you don't ask to mix and match. At the end of the day, this was a good restaurant, one with room to improve. Considering the built-in crowd, odds are it has the chance to do just that.

Ÿ Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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