The trick, when you’re invited to a 24-course tasting of new spring items at a posh joint like Triniti, is to say Yes right away – and only later worry about survivability. The courses would be small, you reassure yourself, and be paced out over three or maybe even four hours. Still, nothing can keep a 24-course dinner from being something of a journey, with some segments more to your liking than others.
You’ve seen one of these before. In the restauraurant industry, it’s known as a menu – and it’s what you order two or three things from and call it a night. Except last night at Triniti, when this was the menu of what we were all actually having. It’s inevitable that throughout such a night you glance at this menu and count how far you’ve come, or perhaps how far you still have to go.
Seen here last night at their usual battle stations, Triniti chef-owner Ryan Hildebrand and his crew made serving 24 courses to – what, maybe 48 diners? – seem like the easiest and most natural thing in the world. The service was a knockout, even adjusting for everyone in the dining room eating the same dish at the same time. This menu was born during just over a week of being closed. Triniti reopens to the public today.
Honestly, there’s no way I can show you or tell you about all the terrific tastes and textures – or even the “merely” interesting ones – that paraded about last night in the name of spring. If traditional bouillabaise, for instance, ran off with molecular gastronomy, it might come back looking like this: an intense seafood broth poured at your table over things like seafood sausage, saffron garlic panna cotta and “rouille crumble.”
One or two dishes served last night were clear variations on Triniti classics – if indeed there can be “classics” at a restaurant open only since Christmas Eve. For example, this freshened-up spin on the cleverly named Foie Gras Breakfast. My table went nuts just seeing this one on the menu. The title item shows up with a tiny piece of sausage, brioche, blueberry balsamic jam and a quail egg. Old-fashioned bacon and eggs never had it so good.
It isn’t often on a tasting menu that any fish shows up after any meat, but all such bets were off at Triniti last night. This dish, titled CAPELLINI in the restaurant’s sometimes bizarre nomenclature, actually featured red mullet as its protein. Yet somebody must have figured out that the best thing on the plate was the pasta – cooked perfectly, slathered in a seafood cream enriched with uni (that’s sea urchin to you and me) and speckled with English peas. I could have this pasta all by itself for dinner, though I would need a lot more of it.
One of the best new desserts I’ve tasted in a long time, this one titled CHEESECAKE was an amazing salute to Texas springtime edging toward the long, hot summer. Yes, there is some cheesecake involved – the creamy-custardy stuff lightly caramelized on top and looking for all the world like creme brulee. But the best thing was the strawberry element, which perfumed the entire dining room before I even took my spoon to it. This sorbet proved the ultimate companion to almond shortbread. This was the dessert – one of six last night – that collected the most oohs and ahhs.