Trigo (closed)

by Susan on February 3, 2009

[Food:3/5]

We were in a restaurant death spiral, plummeting towards the point of no return. Service had been abysmal. The first course was middling. The lengthy wait for our entrees had turned painful. Our shoulders sagged. Regrets that we had decided to eat at a week-old restaurant were voiced. Someone suggested we cut our losses and bail.

But then the seemingly impossible happened; the free fall was stopped mid-plunge. The arrival of our entrees commenced an unprecedented turnaround. But more on that later . . .

Trigo’s stunning interior of steel latticework and floor to ceiling windows has a warehouse-meets-train station feel. The setting was eerily fitting for our absent server. Had he caught a train to Poughkeepsie? Gotten lost in the vast space? We had to ask for menus. We had to ask for water. We had to track him down to order.

We were never welcomed, nor thanked, for choosing to dine at Trigo in its opening week. No one explained the menu, a potentially confusing compilation of eight sections. When I got home I visited Trigo’s website and learned they offer “a shared plate menu” with “accessible Mediterranean-influenced dishes prepared with market-driven ingredients.” Who knew?

We chose a variety of dishes from Trigo’s antipasto listing and then everyone selected their own entrée. Whether this is what Trigo’s chef and owner envisioned, we’ll never know.

The cured meats (from the butcher block section) and cheeses (from the cheese board) were all fine and good, but far from exciting.

All the room temperature antipasto dishes from the fish market and farmstand sections were like science experiments gone awry. Marinated olives were gingered. Pickled pumpkin was raw. Roasted mushrooms were stripped of their earthiness. Octopus confit was chewy and fishy.

It was the from the hearth section of the menu that rescued the first course; a beacon in an otherwise dreary sea. It was the ingredients that wooed us to this part of the menu; we didn’t know (read: weren’t told) that every dish in the section was cooked on the same rustic flat bread. The lamb with chilies was divine. The onion tart was very, very good. My post-dining research revealed that Trigo has an earthen oven on premises. Seems like a tidbit of information worth sharing with your restaurant patrons.

It very well might have been the flat breads that keep us buoyant, our heads above water, as we waited for our entrees. When they did finally arrive, it was as though we had been transported to a completely different restaurant. We took our first bites and looked at each other, stunned.

Subtle and sublime spices tantalized our taste buds. The aromatics were triumphant. Juicy Guinea Hen was roasted with African spices. The lamb duo, a combination of ribs and loin, was prepared expertly. The lamb ribs were charred, the meat falling off its bones. Scallops were seared to perfection and propped elegantly on cauliflower puree. Every plate was licked clean.

While a side of vegetables was delectably roasted, its contents of mostly onions and carrots were disappointing. An order of mushroom fries was delightful, the only downside is that the standard Idaho variety is mixed into the pile as filler.

At this point, the dining crowd had thinned and we were receiving much better service. Our server even took the time to recommend a dessert or two while our water glasses were refilled.

The desserts, which arrived expeditiously, pushed Trigo farther down the redemption path. Bomboloni, warm chocolate donuts served with vanilla mascarpone and crunchy chocolate bites, are a must. The chocolate “Candy Bar,” made with halva, chocolate mousse, and butterscotch was decadent without being hefty. The lemon mousse and fennel cake was light, but not on flavor.

As I’ve said before, “any new dining venture is bound to have its handful of issues.” If Trigo can fix theirs, they might cross the finish line a winner.

Trigo
http://www.trigorestaurant.com
268 West Broadway
New York, NY 10012
212.925.1600

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