Cleveland, Ohio        Date of Visit  12/26/14  

This is it, the place we had planned for our 500th.  We are healthy enough to enjoy and we are going whole hog. We have a New Yorker who just treated another of our companions to birthday happiness in Paris and dinner at Le Bernardin and we have ordered the Menu Bianco…a 12 course (eat it you’ll like it) tasting menu. It is offered with or without beverage pairings. Did I mention whole hog? We got the beverages…drank all of them, we did.



Here’s the thing. I usually have a pretty accurate description of the elements of the dishes…not so much this time. I remember my enjoyment of most but as to individual ingredients and preparation…they are so intricate and detailed, it would have been difficult without the glass after glass of lubricant. With was just impossible. But, like most other things at Trentina, the dishes were well thought out and managed to stand up to the 10th adult beverage.

There were some complaints online about the place. It is pricey, no doubt. It is not your average fare, true. But most of the complaints seem as though they likely come from people who spend $6 every morning on a cup of coffee and have little sense of adventure in dining. The dining area is small and loud (it was us…the loud, not the small part). The whole space is very clean with a small window into the kitchen. The chairs are comfortable enough for a lengthy stay and the tables are topped with mirrors.

So It Took 500 Restaurants For A Bathroom To Show Up Here. Seriously, There Was Nearly As Much Discussion About The Bathroom As The Menu. Weird.

This brings me to one of the strangest elements of the event. Over 500 restaurant visits now. We’ve seen a bunch. I have never…ever…ever heard so much excitement over a bathroom. I didn’t go to see. I was the only one. Apologizing to a table next to us while they were leaving for our laughter and volume, they started talking to us about the bathroom. By report, it sounds to me like they had installed a “Home of the Future” exhibit from a World’s Fair up the steep steps. Remote controlled toilets with heated seats, automatic air curtains to dry your hands at the sink without having to move them. It was mind blowing for everyone who went. If you dine, and don’t mind the never-stopping stream of visitors…you should probably check it out.


Our Beverage Specialist Looked Familiar

And Was Very Busy

The service turned out to be fine dining professional knowledge with the easy ability to shift into some fun and even a little push back (still fun) when we hassled them about ketchup…etc. It worked very well. We even had the happy luck to have Chef Sawyer as our beverage-pairing specialist for the night. Knowledge met personal and fun again. It's a rare blend to be treated near royally and still enjoy a joke or two.

The wines were (in a rarity) new to all of us…delicious…and excellently paired with the progression of plates. My favorites were outstanding and the couple that weren’t really my style worked well with the course it arrived alongside.

Okay…so many words…now dinner.


Fancy Service. If You Were In The Space Bathroom, They Covered Your Dish Til You Returned

And Folded Your Napkin On Your Chair Back


After a splash of champagne we were delivered the first course and a cocktail. The beverage was triple pine and a hint as to the delicate balance we would see through the rest of the evening, definite but subtle, a hint of sweet but bitter enough to be pleasant, unique and tasty. The first plates were one of the ones with which I struggled the most. Thin crisps of polenta with a smear of cheese, small rolls of bean stuffed beef carpacio and pickled veggies. The pickled veg were exactly what you would want from a chef with his own vinegar business and great with the meat. The polenta and cheese mixture was delicious but the texture was a struggle for most of us. Something about the preparation of the polenta crisps made them bite and chew exactly like stale tortilla…that chewy/not chewy weirdness. It was hard to get past, no matter how good they tasted…which was so good. The next plate had nothing to do with plates. A considerable block of wood showed up with little fried nuggets of chickpea puree with a dollop of sauce on top. Crusty outside, silky interior, all with serious cici punch. A happy little bite.

Didn't Imagine Enjoying Pine 3 Ways Cocktail But Was Excellent

Struggled With The Polenta But The Pickle Was Really Nice

Can You Spot The Fourth Puff? Tasty Single Bite Homage To Beans

With Some Flair For Presentation

Next we were served gender split seafood crudo courses, both of which were excellent. A fine chop of shrimp was served with smoked cream cheese (oh so good) and crosscuts of something akin to celery light. The shrimp were sweet and tender which latched onto the light smoke on the fresh cheese. Cheese and seafood…this time yes. The other dish was a fresh oyster poured out of the shell into a small bowl of other stuff, such a blur of happiness. Great seafood flavor only enhanced by the accouterment. Great ingredients, respectfully treated and uplifted without distracting from the original focus of the plate.

Both Seafood Crudo Dishes Were...

Clean And Elegant

Next was a bit of the magic we had read about but weren’t sure we were going to experience. Loaves of crusty bread arrived with some Maldon sea salt and ground sumac on the plate. Oh, please, let this be what I think it is. Sure enough, the salt and spice are not the only addition for the bread. The candles that had been lit after the second course on the table are made from aged beef tallow (fat). Take some bread, dip it in the fat, then the salt/sumac, and viola. I had wracked my noggin as to what this would do for the bread. I expected bread + fat. Instead I got a rich fatty beefiness! Whoda thunk? Even though we knew it was probably coming, it was still a unique and delectable treat that makes adventures like these worthwhile.

There Are More Than Three Elements To This Dish

And The Surprising One Is Surprisingly Tasty

The next seafood course was a pedestrian fish, prepared two ways. The first was a piece of filet done to the consistency of butter and topped with luxurious sauce. The second was a puree, cooked solid and shaped into a quenelle. Add beautifully small and gray pearls of Sevruga caviar and our first encounter with “ketchup”. I would tell you what I thought of the fish but instead I asked our special guest how it compared to Chef Ripert’s bastion of seafood. She was not disappointed in any way. She felt Le Bernadin focused more on the fish itself than the treatment but enjoyed the dish enough to have it again…more on that at the end. Officially high praise. The ketchup wasn’t what most people would consider ketchup and added some punch to the rest of the dish. Maybe they call of couple of their sauces ketchup as penance for introducing more fine dining in Cleveland.

Fish was followed by a plate devoid of protein. A single mushroom, a small myriad of locally foraged treats, and…another ketchup? Earthy fungus, cranberry beans, romanesco broccoli, and who knows what else all settling into one of the most glorious ketchups (light yellow broth) I can imagine. This was vegetarian fare for hedonistic carnivores like me. Tastes you would never expect, as unique as the candle and all rummaged for from the area. Then came the pastas.

Fish Like Butter. With Butter

Locavore Vegetarian Glory

Oh! The pastas! Fresh and cut by chitarra, the noodle had an extraordinary texture, doughy but with a hint of snap. One, of little pasta nibblets topped with an egg smoked in hay (and served with a smoldering ember from the fire), the other longer strands loaded with other ingredients. There was debate at the table which was better but both were stupendous. Lessons in taste and texture, especially the tiny crunchy bits of who knows what exploding with flavor. Unreal.

Stupid Stupid Stupid...


So that’s it for the pasta. False. Next ca me two versions of stuffed pastas. One small bites of whole wheat ravioli, the other a round brown ball of cheese stuffed awesome atop two sauces…beet and something else. The wine is taking full effect at this point but the dishes are getting more pointed and sharp, able to cut through the warm fuzziness of the palate and the brain. On a side note, they have a multiple course pasta tasting menu…I can only imagine…but I am salivating at the prospect.

The Ravioli Were Almost As Extra Ordinary As The First Two Pastas

Especially When They Revealed Their Treasure

The beasts of the field followed the pasta, one cow, one bunny. The small portion of strip steak was fine, cooked well, but didn’t really stand out like other dishes. Mine also had a wide swath of inedible elastin, which meant a significant portion remained on the plate. The hare was so much better. Intricately broken down, and rewrapped with its exterior into an actual yin and yang emblem of harmony. Set in another beautiful sauce, the rabbit was the king of beasts this night.

The Strip Steak Didn't Wow Much

But The Rabbit Was Delicious

The other fun trick, which has been out long enough I don’t think I’d spoil anything, once you finish the meat courses they allow you to repeat your favorite. Genius.

Around the table we ended up repeating the fish, the long strands of pasta X2 and the mushroom dish X2. I ordered the shroom again. It's gotta be good if I'm going to have my druthers and go all veggie. I would snort that ketchup (broth of the gods).

So good. Before dessert starts you are given the option of a dessert wine or one of three peculiar spirits, an American Rye or interesting Italian or German liquors.

If I can sneak it by her you’ll see Steph trying the rye.

Super Sneaky Picture

A bit like our trip to The Black Pig, the pastry kitchen does not exhibit the same wow as the hot line. A bowl of sorbet, rose hip and something brilliantly tart, was sharp enough to cross your eyes. I usually see sorbets as a palate cleanser between courses, this more slapped your palate, probably more than I was interested. The panna cotta (which I so seldom enjoy anyways) looked more like a pancake and outside of the nuts and other bits strewn on top, did very little for me. The warm budino pudding was better but never approached, let alone challenged the heights of so many of the savory dishes. Strangely, after watching the obsessive method they use to create a cup of coffee, we didn’t get any coffee, nor were we offered any. I guess it’s off limits for the beverage paired menus.

Sorbet So Sharp It'll Strain Mandibular Muscles

Panna Cotta. Things Were Falling Off Some For Me

And The Budino Didn't Improve Much

You Can Watch But Don't Touch, The Coffee You Pervs

The last bite was a heady dark chocolate truffle. Good, could get it just about anywhere of quality. Realistically, the end of the meal is a disappointment, mostly due to comparison with the rest of the experience. But weirdly chewy polenta and ho-hum desserts don’t do too much to quash the achievements of the other plates.

Fun and knowledgeable service. Innovation with flavor. A bathroom you would be okay dying in, apparently. When you push boundaries, not everything is going to speak to everyone, but we had a great experience.

And likely would have, even with fewer glasses of wine.

If you have the means and the sense of adventure, Trentina brings things we would have travelled to New York or Chicago for to the middle of Cleveland. Try it out.

Last Chocolaty Bite



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