Review: Trentina

14 October 2016

After last night’s rather poor dinner at Greenhouse Tavern, I was not looking too forward to my dinner tonight at its sister restaurant, Trentina. Tasting menu or not, it’s worrying me…

A very long day in the Cleveland area that brought me down to Akron at one point, I was worn out. Plus the town was on slow-down thanks to the baseball game. Places were running really slow everywhere, probably with people calling in sick… My hotel’s “valet” parking was a total clusterf**k for instance… But I eventually got to Trentina, with yet another unnecessary valet system…

I sat down in an already boistrous dining room, and it seems I was the only person doing the tasting menu…that worried me. I guess the price is way high for Cleveland standards. Let’s see how it goes. Went with the pairing too. After a little while the first item arrived, the charcuterie plate…

01-charcuterie

Ahem… Well, several things. The wee bits of duck prosiutto was the best part of this dish. The llama sausage was extremely bland, the speck was all salt and nothing else. Pickles were also good, but those polenta “chips” was a textural mess and was impossible to really eat with the meats. Trying to be way too clever and not working. Not the best start. And while I was working on this slowly (no other way), a small item was presented.

02-tramezzini

Huh? Listed on the menu as “tramezzino” of all things, this was just a fried glob — which really should not have been presented when still working on the charcuterie. It just ate into it, and everything after that was just bland and dreary… One of the evident issues about the problematic process of running a tasting menu here…

So far I was less than impressed. Then the third course arrived, the crudo.

03-trout-crudo

Steelhead trout cured, not bad at all. Bit of roe and unexpected samphire. A nice little dish here, and I relaxed as I hoped things are now getting into a better swing. Then we have the mushroom dish.

04-maitake

Maitake. Overall it was too sweet and overwhelming. The joy of good mushrooms is to taste the mushrooms, not the sauce and the cooking. Otherwise just serve us tofu or some other tasteless substance… Way too much done when not necessary, the disease of TV-inspired cooking strikes again… Then up next, gnocchi…

05-fried-gnocco

Ugh, I hate fried gnocchi. Really meh here. A completely unmemorable dish. And now they bring the bread…and NOW they tell me the candle on the table was actually crafted of fat as a dip for the bread. Well, it was bland. Trying to hide it scent-wise they failed to do any seasoning to it, so it’s basically dipping your bread into just-melted shortening…

bread-fat-candle

My aorta told me NO and I took just one bite. When taste justify risking your health it’s one thing, but when it’s not…

Sigh, this was just not a good menu so far, the crudo being the best item so far. At this point the service has been friendly but it’s not flowed well. Sometimes the food comes before the wine, sometimes the food comes before the silverware. It’s just discombobulated for a tasting menu, to be very honest… Anyway, the larger items start now, first up the fish.

06-grouper

Today’s fish was grouper. Honestly a little boring, the fish had so little flavour I can see why you’d need sauce here. Cooked okay, but really, it’s not rocket science. For a supposedly top restaurant in the region, this is pretty chain restaurant-y with a few bobs thrown in to impress that fails at its job. Read: roe.

I’m rapidly losing interest in this dinner and I’m not surprised no one else is doing this tasting menu. I can’t imagine when this place was all tasting menu — but perhaps it ran smoother than it is now, which is borderline haphazard… Next up the pasta dish…

07-bucatini

Bucatini cacio e pepe. Pasta cooked okay but it was again rather boring. Very chain restaurant-y, no innovation whatsoever. And where’s the pepper? This seems so sanitised for a town that has such a large Italian population, it’s almost like getting this same dish in Tulsa or Ogden… Really disappointing…

08-tomato

Next up was a tomato-based dish, as a sort-of palate cleanser before the meat. What is with the utterly overwhelming base? I kept rubbing the fresh vegetables on the side of the plate to get rid of all this. You dump all this over bad quality vegetables to hide dodgy (or lack of) flavours, what is with this trend to add unnecessary things to high-quality vegetables? Same idiotic idea as other trendy places like Tar & Roses in LA. What is wrong with letting the vegetable shine? Why are kitchens so afraid of natural flavours — or more, why are they so afraid of being accused of “not cooking” by doing that? TV has so, so ruined cooking, and screwed up everyone’s palates…

I was so disheartened by this menu by the time the main meat arrived I had lost my appetite. And usually it would be one of my very favourite items to eat — lamb tongue — but tonight I was just not loving it…

09-lamb-tongue

Covered in way too many things, I was just picking out the tongue from the dish to consume slowly. Tongue was pretty good, once you scrape away the other stuff that just obfuscated the main ingredient. I abandoned this dish half-eaten…

I was just counting the time now and nearly did a Dublis and abandoned ship, but I decided to trooper through this having made a big decision in my head. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m done with tasting menus. Then came the “cheese” plate…

10-cheese

A plate influenced by the namesake region…yeah… Honey and Nutella powder? Or did my server give the wrong description? I dunno, but from certain angles this dish looks like something on the pavement in SoHo (London)/sidewalk in SoHo (NYC) on a Sunday morning… Are they all watching the baseball game in the kitchen?

11-dessert

The dessert wasn’t bad, focusing on orange and fennel. But at this point I was going autopilot. I was just about to ask for coffee and the bill when they brought out another dessert…

12-dessert

Chocolate, with nuts and candied items, as you can see. Not bad, but again I was just itching to get out. I asked for that coffee and bill and quickly made my way out. More chaos outside with the utterly unnecessary and ridiculous valet, just to cap off a really poor night that turned into a poster child of what not to have for an evening of fine dining…

Well, if anything this meal has put me off tasting menus from places I don’t know. I thought the Dublis night came close to doing that, but this was the last nail in the coffin for me. I’m done. Sick of this. Pricey, disfunctional stuff from people who really do not know how to put a tasting menu experience together. Disjointed everywhere, from the cooking to the service. Not worth it anymore…

I should have expected incongruant cooking from last night’s dinner, but the flow was so off tonight too that not even better cooking could remedy the amateur hour I saw. Friendly is one thing, but when you don’t train your staff right it’s annoying to pay so much for a tasting menu. Can’t count how many times I was presented with my dish with no silverware, or with a bare, unclear description of the dish that I had to ask about twice until I gave up.

Well, at least I know I won’t be back in Cleveland again, food or not. I’m so done with this trip, and I have days to go…ugh…

Trentina
1903 Ford Drive
Cleveland, Ohio

PS: I’m coincidentally posting this after Cleveland’s loss in Game 7 the World Series (this was on night of Game 1). Ironically there was a piece about how this and Greenhouse Tavern show the renaissance of Cleveland cooking… Sorry, these two evenings of this “renaissance” is more like the Browns and nowhere near the Cavs…

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One thought on “Review: Trentina

  1. Pingback: Review: a(MUSE.) | melhuang1972

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