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Defining Triniti

The casual, elegant, New American-with-a-twist restaurant isn't easy to pigeonhole, but it's good.

I couldn't quite decide, for one, what Triniti was going for. The service was a bit stuffy and short that first visit, and between the small portions and the somewhat confusing mission of its cuisine, I was lost. I'd heard the food described in various places as "modern American," "progressive American" and even "sweet, savory and spirits," but what was it really? You could see the bone structure of New American cuisine in its elegant, expressive sauce work and transformed comfort food, like that foie gras breakfast or Southern staples like fried green tomatoes reworked into something completely different.

Yet Triniti is not strictly New American. In that "contemporary" vein, it incorporates newer techniques and — more importantly — local ingredients that give the restaurant a sense of place: a Railean rum-based cocktail or greens from Wood Duck Farms are here not as garnish but as an overall attitude toward the cuisine. The food here is defiantly Texan, but with a modern twist. Regardless of what you call it, one year later I've found that putting a label on Triniti doesn't quite matter.

In response to complaints like my own, Hilde­brand says that Triniti has addressed the portion sizes — although he's quick to admit that it's more visual artistry than anything else. "We pile everything in the center of the plate," he said with a smile. "It's the same amount of food, but it looks like more." And the trick works. Even I was happily fooled on my second visit.

Foie gras on pancakes: breakfast for dinner has never tasted so good.
Troy Fields
Foie gras on pancakes: breakfast for dinner has never tasted so good.

Location Info

Map

Triniti

2815 S. Shepherd Drive
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > Fine Dining

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m Friday, 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Kale: $10
MBLT: $11
Beets: $12
Fried green tomatoes: $14
Three-course lunch: $24
Pork collar: $29
Filet mignon: $38

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SLIDESHOW: Triniti: Casual Elegance and New American with a Twist
BLOG POST: How Do You Define Triniti?

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Happily fooled seems an odd way to put it, but I was glad to see that Hildebrand isn't so much of an ideologue or so wedded to his modern plating to admit that sometimes spreading out food across a broad, white plate can detract from the overall dish. As beautiful as it may be to behold, there's something less satisfying about picking those little beet cubes up from their prismatic field than there is in receiving a tumble of multicolored beets jostling with green, white and purple cauliflower over a thick spread of curried goat cheese — all in the center of a much smaller plate. This is the new beet salad these days at Triniti, and the updated, relaxed plating works in its favor.

"The portions here are kind of small," I'd warned my dining companion on that Friday night, a man whose appetite usually far exceeds my own. "So let's order a bunch of food."

It was folly, as we were too full to even finish our lovely desserts of warm, ricotta-stuffed beignets and a pistachio genoise with its gentle sponge cake topped by a glistening layer of dark chocolate that seemed too perfectly buffed and sculpted to have been made by human hands.

We'd dined that night on briny, shallow-cupped oysters with a mignonette of baby okra; pickled green tomatoes battered in panko, fried and served with juicy lobster claw meat; kale softened by the yolk of a tremendously large poached egg and given a salty backbone by thin rounds of pancetta; and a wonderfully pink, impressively large filet mignon over a masa cake held together not by cornmeal and lard but by sweet potato puree and foie gras.

Even lunch here is a special occasion that doesn't require enduring a stuffy meal with clients or awkward conversation with the boss. In other words, you can enjoy Triniti all on your own. You don't need an expense account to enjoy the $24 three-course prix fixe menu that includes items like a lush white bean soup filled with soft shreds of pork shank and a bright parsley salad and a pork schnitzel — true to Texas's Germanic heritage — that includes a potato cake and gizzard gravy. And although I wished there'd been more of that gizzard gravy on my schnitzel (as well as a bit more salt in the breading itself), it's been my only real complaint.

It's a complaint that vanishes rather quickly, too, when you're tucking into a mortadella BLT, Triniti's housemade "bologna" rugged and thick with salty-sour cornichons, bumping playfully up against the tomato jam and avocado aioli spread in thick, generous layers across smoked romaine leaves and freshly baked bread — for only $11. I'd almost pay that for the crispy, thick, hand-cut fries that come in a big glass jar on the side.

I've greatly enjoyed the changes that Triniti has made over the last 12 months — each one a smart move. The patio has been opened up to Shepherd, for example, and you can now see the bright orange and green chairs that invite you to linger over $5 happy hour cocktails and bar snacks. And although Hildebrand says that they'll soon be doing a few renovations to the restaurant — expanding and softening the bar area, adding acoustic ceiling tiles to cut down the raucous noise that rings across its wooden floors and concrete walls on busy weekend nights, things which I do trust will continue to let Triniti improve and evolve — to me, right now, Triniti is perfect. I wouldn't change a thing.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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4 comments
conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

I found the service to be outstanding--memorable, even; attentive without being overbearing. The food was elegant but not too precious, and the cocktails are quite divine. Love, love, love. Love.

carriebwc
carriebwc

Some friends and I ate there on the Sunday before Christmas, and could not have been happier with the meal, the wine, and the service.   And I love that they send you home with a little muffin for breakfast the next day.  I would take any out-of-town friend there in an instant to show them what we've got here.

I also went to the tailgate they had on the night the ill-fated (okay, pathetic) Texans played New England, and was wowed by the dishes they presented, and the ones presented by other Houston restaurants.  I mention it because not only was it a wonderful event, but it seems emblematic of the best attitudes in the Houston restaurant scene right now--we're all in this together, let's have some fun, and most importantly, let's support each other. 

revoli
revoli

I must say when I read on my Android to tweet TRINITY, I thought we would be tweeting God ('m I dumb). Then I read your story, and all I've got to ask is this: Do people go to show and tell, or eat and meet, or fly solo for the view, or take a bliind friend to put an end to the question we all want the answer to: Is the staff running on some kind of juicya

fiorello
fiorello

Great review, really enjoyed it. What a long way this space has come from the days when Tony Vallone configured it as Los Tonyos and presented his idea of laid-back Houston food and drink. I'm excited to try Triniti after chuckling initially that they took a few weeks off to plan a seasonal menu and perfect the internals of the operation. I thought that was a bad omen, so glad it turned out to be nothing.

 
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