Friday, March 31, 2017

Trust - San Diego, Ca

A Matter of Trust
I had pinned Trust as my neighborhood, steady Betty, even if at a first glance it came off as somewhat stark with its high ceilings and warehouse-like dining room, but those bare bones were rounded out beneath the well figured wattage of warm, buttered lighting and the symphonic,“clink-clank-tink”, heard from its open kitchen like an impromptu jam session, which brought an unlikely hominess to the concrete and steel surroundings.

But the true comfort zone emerged from a menu where nostalgia was sprinkled like a tangible ingredient, amongst a concoction of new-wave nuances. Trust was the equivalent of your favorite, old-school, mom and pop joint that was now run by its classically trained kids.

WOOD GRILLED CAULIFLOWER golden raisins, mint, serrano aioli, curry vinaigrette ($10)

I called this their “Brain Trust” because: 1) Cauliflower looked like a brain. 2) It was the most brilliant use of cauliflower I’d ever seen.

The thump of its memory came back through daydreams of wood-charred, veggie meatiness, the mint’s delicate, yet essential “ting” like a triangle in the percussion section, bursts of sun from sweet satchels of plumped, golden raisins and the curry vinaigrette, which emoted true enlightenment – genius!

BRUSSELS SPROUTS tortilla strips, cilantro, jalapeño vinaigrette, cotija cheese, tajín ($11)

On the other end of the spectrum, were the Brussels sprouts, which were over-salted, over-cooked and frankly in my opinion, over-done as a menu item.

Trust’s attempt at originality with “Mexican sprouts” was admirable, but between the well-seasoned veggies, the cotija cheese, and the tortilla strips, sodium levels reached record-breaking highs, which made it a low-point of the meal.

HAMACHI CRUDO black sesame, cilantro, avocado, sprouts, cucumber, trout roe, taro root chips ($15)

This was the crudo version of seven layer dip, but more refined with layers of freshly cut Hamachi, creamy chunks of avocado, cucumber’s clean crunch, earthy, black sesame seeds, grassy hints of cilantro, and the paper-thin, fried, taro root chips, which became the perfect vehicle to drive this crudo home.

RICOTTA AGNOLOTTI sunchokes, black garlic streusel, black truffle, panna, basil ($19)

I called this, “Richy Rich,” since the decadence came in layers like a Bentley tricked out with diamond-encrusted tires.

Angel-like agnolotti floated in as a fleeting, squish of euphoria, beneath a velvety, cream sauce dotted with black garlic streusel for some punch before getting caught in a sunchoke-hold of crispiness. Black truffles rained like singles at a strip club. It was glorious.

UNI PASTA shiitake mushrooms, clams, lemon, soft herbs ($18)

The way the description read, I assumed the uni was incorporated in the pasta dough – not the case (though I liked the idea!). Unfortunately, the only flavor I could distinguish were the enormous amounts of al dente onions peppered throughout the dish.

Every time I thought I had a clam or uni, it ended up being onion, which was always a disappointment (especially since it wasn’t listed in the description).

BRAISED OXTAIL RAVIOLINI pine nuts, carrots, oxtail jus, horseradish, whipped ricotta ($19)

“Do you, classic “pot roast” dinner take traditional Italian dinner, as your tastefully paired partner?” It was quite the marriage. Oxtail’s fork-tender lusciousness always reminded me of a classic pot roast dinner, the way it shredded, but stayed saturated in its own juices and rendered fat.

Instead of serving the oxtail with noodles, Trust used it as the pasta’s filling. The “gravy” aka jus, diced carrots, and horseradish mimicked accoutrements found with a roast, while toasted pine nuts and sweet ricotta came in with the Italian uppercut for a solid knockout.

LEMON MERINGUE CHEESECAKE honey rosemary sorbet, almond crunch, pomegranate

I wouldn’t exactly call this a lemon meringue, more of a lemon curd, which I preferred, but it wasn’t worthy of a reorder. Maybe it was because I had major dessert envy from the neighboring table who had been wise enough to order the totem pole of onion-ring shaped PROFITEROLES apple, caramel…next time.

Trust and Believe: And there would be a next time. Besides dinner, I was dying to try their brunch for the PROSCUITTO BREAKFAST SANDWICH (2 fried eggs, basil aioli, asiago cheese, artisan French bread, potatoes - $12) paired with some kiwi-cucumber and pineapple-ginger mimosas. Also, as a Jersey girl who grew up with diners as a statewide staple, the fact that they had the rarely-seen-in-San Diego, SIMPLE BREAKFAST (2 eggs, potatoes, bacon or sausage, toast -$10), brought it all back to that mom and pop simplistic sensibility which bred nothing but Trust.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Running Goose - Los Angeles, CA

CAUTION: WALK don’t run…to The Running Goose.

Just to play it safe, I made our reservations at 5:30pm since we had 7:30pm tickets at the Pantages Theater - glad I did! A flock of hungry customers descended on the dining room around 6pm, disarming the only two servers who began running around like headless geese in the maze of two-top tables set only inches apart, providing zero wiggle room and forcing patrons to play an unwelcome version of dinnerware Jenga, stacking and passing wobbly totem poles of plates throughout the meal.

The first section of the menu was a variety of tostadas ($3 each), so we chose:

1) Arugula: Avocado, sweet onion, zapaca crema, arugula, queso seco = bland nothingness.

2) Corn: burnt corn aioli, lime, basil, parsley = charred, whole kernels sent a second shock wave of concentrated, grilled corn flavor to the subtlety sweet aioli for an overall sensation that mimicked the layered depth of soul food, while staying California cuisine clean.

Papaya salad: burrata, garden herbs, radish, lime, sesame, balsamic ($12)

Why-a why-a, why-a, did I order this papaya?! Ready for a rant?! THIS SALAD MADE NO SENSE!!! A heaping mound of orangey-pink overwhelmed the bowl in a freakish array of disproportion. If this salad was a person, it would be the Elephant Man. If this salad was the globe, papaya would be the Colonial British Empire in its heyday, its sunset-like hue blotting out anything else on the horizon.

Half a ball of buratta was shoved to the side like a forgotten exile, and two sprigs of greens seemed to have inadvertently landed there as a fluke like a flower sprouting through a crack in the cement. Both the radish and balsamic glaze were near figments of the imagination, but would have been a welcome reality. Not under this fascist fruit regime. It didn’t matter what the masses wanted, Grand Puba Papaya would prevail.

Duck Chancla: thick tortilla, black beans, chilaca chili, safflower crema, pickled red onions, pepitas ($17)

I had to admit, this was something special. The chancla consisted of a crispy, extra sturdy flour tortilla that reminded me of a down-stuffed, winter coat - fluffy on the inside and ruggedly secure on the outside to endure the elements.

In this case, the elements were tasty ones – crackled duck skin over tender, brown meat; hearty earthiness from black beans; the perk of pickled onions; a spike in spice from chilies – it lit up the palate’s senses like a pinball machine, full tilt.

Horchata crème brulee: blueberry, almonds, red rice krispies ($8)

*Rant: Round 2* Shame! SHAMMME!! This should have never left the kitchen. Never saw an almond. Never saw red rice krispies.

What I did see a whole lot of curdled chunks, scorched sugar, and a sloppy blueberry cover-up in what would be remembered as LA’s “crème brulee crime scene of 2017”.

This Goose was cooked…