Friday, December 19, 2014

Trip to Trentina

The Sawyers' new restaurant, Trentina, located in the heart of University Circle's world of arts and culture has garnished a lot of hype and speculation. This northern Italian-inspired restaurant focuses on an intimate and unique dining experience that you can't find anywhere else in Northeast Ohio. Adopting the concept of offering only a chef's tasting menu, that is all the rage in major "foodie" destinations across the country, was something new to our area. Some diners were hesitant. Could this concept, and high ticket price, work in Cleveland? I felt that if anyone was going to make it work, it would be the Sawyers. Their famed Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat have created quite the loyal following. The chef team behind these restaurants are quite good at their craft, and Trentina was going to push this reputation even further.

Nestled in the former Sergio's location, next to The Glidden House, it's quite small, but immediately charming.
It's intimate, and provides diners with a "experience" that isn't meant to be rushed. If you're there for the seven-course tasting, give yourself one and a half hours. If you're doing the full twelve-course Menu Bianco tasting, allow for two and a half hours.

We were there to get the full experience, and even though the restaurant is now offering a la carte options and a pasta tasting menu as well, we went right for the Menu Bianco ($115 each). Beverage pairings are also available, for an additional charge. We decided to order wine by the glass, and they made some excellent suggestions during the meal.

The menu will be changing often, to highlight their artistry and the seasonal ingredients that they source locally. You won't even be able to get the meal that Mr. H and I had, even though it was just weeks ago. So, I won't go into detail about the food itself, but here are a few images of our meal:
Each dish brings different variations of the course, and you won't be eating the same thing as the person next to you. So, you better like whomever you bring with you, because you're going to want to dig into their plate as well!

The portions are a tad more substantial as you get into the pasta and meat courses, but as you can see, these servings are small and it's intended to provide you with an experience of tasting many things in small amounts. However, the process is long, and we did leave there a little hungry after almost three hours of small bites. I love tasting many things in small portions, but I don't like it when the digestion catches up to you, and you leave a restaurant wanting more. Particularly at the high price of Trentina.

You get eleven courses, expertly designed by the chefs to showcase some of the best technique that I've seen on a plate in the Greater Cleveland area. The "extra" twelfth course is one where you can re-visit a favorite previous course. I loved that.

Now, the creativity and kitchen technique aside, I wasn't really impressed by our dining experience. Many of the courses were good, but I won't even call one "great." The flavor just wasn't there, in the way that I had expected. Also, the service fell short of my expectations. At that price point, and the high-class atmosphere, I expected the service to match. Drinks often went unfilled, servers stumbled over descriptions of the dishes often, and it just didn't have the polish that I think this place begs for.

For the most expensive meal that I've ever had in Cleveland, it left me disappointed. The price was high, portions a hair too small, outstanding moments for the food lacking, and service lackluster. It was fun to get all dressed up, to feel like we were experiencing something special, but this visit just didn't live up to my high expectations.

I'm not writing it off, and I'd certainly love to try the al la carte options or brunch, but it just didn't live up to the high-end, memorable experience that I thought we were going to have. For the price, it will be a while before I'd be back for the Menu Bianco. This is just my opinion, as I know others have been raving about their own experiences. I try to always be honest, to share my personal thoughts and experiences, and to welcome feedback and other opinions. If you've had a great experience there, feel free to chime in by leaving a comment.

Here's a funny tip: Visit the bathroom, and your bum will love the heated seat.

1903 Ford Drive
Cleveland, OH 44106


Jen @ Why CLE? said...

We went to the Friends & Family, so I can't really speak to the service aspect as much (Chef was bringing out a lot of the dishes that night). I will agree that the flavors weren't huge, but for me, that worked. It was one of the more adventurous meals I've had and I like the idea that the menu is constantly evolving. All that said, I think our next trip will be for the a la carte menu.

rosemarie said...

I've just gone for lunch, and my experience was similar. The eggplant wrap I ordered was nothing special (actually, barely any eggplant at all) and super salty. All three of my dining companions and I were hungry once we left as well. The server couldn't tell us much about the items, but lunch service was new then. But, lunch was significantly lower in price so while I had to eat after I returned to work, at least I was only out around $11 :)

Kristian said...

I've also done the Bianca and, although it was fine overall, I know I wouldn't do it again. I can't really remember much from the evening (a burning ember here or a polenta chip there) because it just wasn't memorable enough concerning flavors or dishes.

Don't get me wrong - everything was good. It just wasn't memorable. I have to look back to my post to remember what we got.

Those bathrooms, on the other hand...that was really memorable and cool!

eatdrinkcleveland said...

And this is exactly why I haven't been there! I've been waiting til the a la carte started.

Bite Buff said...

Update- The executive chef has moved on since the night we dined there.

Everyone- Thanks for sharing your experiences and feedback.

Crystal- Let me know if you head there for a la carte. I'd like to give it a try. Since the chef left now, hopefully the quality of food and service will improve.