I’ve been, for the past few weeks, throwing myself into Houston, into restaurants and museums and food markets, looking for the good stuff, the places to which I’ll return for the things I need for sustenance and inspiration, my fixes.
Last night, after a screening of Blue Jasmine (my Woody fix), Angela and I drove to Triniti, about which I had read a few good things, for a food fix. The restaurant looks perfect, all light wood and subdued illumination in the right places. A low exposed-concrete wall separates the open kitchen from the main dining area – a design element I found particularly satisfying.
But the food. Disappointing. Except for Angela’s pea soup, served wonderfully chilled, the rest of the plates were lacking in taste and technique. For $31, I expect beans properly cooked, faro that is not dry, and pork that is seasoned. (My dish on the menu: pork chop – parsnip puree, collection of summer beans, heart, faro, plum sauce.) A cook must show confidence in his use of salt. Whoever put his (or her) mind and hand to my pork seems to have none. The beans in the bean and faro mixture were hard, and if anyone in that gorgeous kitchen tasted those beans and still allowed them to enter the dining room on a plate, he or she should be assigned a bean-cooking class, for at least a week.
To Angela’s plate of snapper (on the menu as “Snapper – artichoke, olive, tomato fondue, white bean puree, fried oyster). It was, in her words, a poorly deconstructed version of the description, with each of the ingredients in a clump on the plate. The tomato fondue was overly tart and bitter, and the sole olive on the plate small and lonely and dry. It was as if the cook cared more about the “art” of the plate than she did about the taste of the ingredients. The fish was moist, but it lacked the bite of freshness, and the $29 plate was disappointing overall, especially coming after the excellent soup. The fried oyster was crisp, the interior bland, as if all the salt and ocean had been drained from the bivalve.
Art over taste. Plate design over cooking technique. I have been noticing this more and more, artfully designed plates that ultimately disappoint when one disturbs the masterpiece by eating it. Joyce had to master the language by writing Dubliners before he could move on to Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. I appreciate beautiful plates, food artfully arranged with passion and playfulness, but if the food art disappoints on the palate, the art is a contrivance, worth nothing.
It was a Sunday evening, so perhaps that had something to do with the food, and the service. Yes, in addition to the lacking food, the service was a bit slipshod. When my pork dish was delivered I had to wait five minutes for a knife and fork. When our dessert was placed on the table, the waiter overlooked the fact that we had no cutlery. Minor issues, yes, but restaurants of this caliber, or restaurants that aspire to be in this caliber and charge $48 for a lamb dish, must also aspire to perfect service, service that is so amazing as to be invisible. Nothing should disturb the guest’s relationship with the food. This service did.
I am going to visit Triniti again, on a Wednesday or Friday. I am certain it does better than it did on this evening of our first visit.