By Wendy Lemlin
When Trust Restaurant opened earlier this year in Hillcrest, I was invited to a media preview. With its enviable location on the corner of Robinson and Park, I could see at once that the 1300 sq ft patio, with its eye-catching red accents, ample table seating, and comfy couches, was going to be an immediate neighborhood success. Inside, the décor was inviting as well, contemporary casual, all light woods and black accents, with a decent sized bar taking up the entire north wall of the dining room and an open kitchen on the east side, giving diners something to look at, besides their phones, as they wait for their orders to arrive. At that media preview, I recall, I was impressed with the space, but not so much with the food. To be fair, we were served tray-passed “bites” of various menu items—never a good way to fully appreciate all the nuances of a dish, IMHO—and the large crowd was aggressively pouncing on whatever tidbits came their way, so I only managed to taste a few things. All of which I felt were “okay”, but didn’t wow me, as I remember, not enough for me to make a special trip to the restaurant now that I no longer live in the neighborhood.
Lately, however, I began hearing rave reviews for TRUST, from people whose opinions
on food I actually respect. So, it obviously seemed a return visit was in order.
I dined at TRUST a couple of weekends ago, and I’m happy to say my opinions of Chef/Co-Owner Brad Wise’s creations definitely went up numerous notches.
The menu is divided into four sections—Farm, Ocean, Ranch, and More. The first three are of the currently popular “small plate” or “sharing” sizes. (I hate that “sharing” misnomer– to me, a “sharing” size would be one so large that you wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing by yourself, not small enough that I want to gobble the it down before anyone else can get a bite. That being said, I found most of the “share” dishes at TRUST to be more generously portioned than others I’ve become used to). In the More section are four entrée-type selections.
My companion and I shared three items in the Farm category: Baby Gem Lettuce, Wood Grilled Cauliflower, and Ricotta Angolotti, and then I chose an Ocean dish and he picked one from the Ranch section (I don’t eat meat and he doesn’t eat seafood, so finding items we can share can often be challenging). By the time we finished those, we were too satiated to try one of the larger plates, all but one of which were meat, and so didn’t interest me anyhow.
We both agreed that the Wood Grilled Cauliflower was the unexpected favorite of the night. Smoky and tender, the warm bits of cauliflower were combined with golden raisins, mint, serrano aioli and tossed in a curry vinaigrette. With a bit of heat from the aioli, all the flavors really popped, and the smokiness from the grill gave the cauliflower a substantialness that was almost meaty.
I could be very happy (and fat!) eating the Ricotta Angnolotti every day of my life. The little pasta pockets were stuffed with house made ricotta, slightly sweet and silky, and bathed in a luxuriously rich black truffle cream sauce, which imparted major umami, and enhanced, but never overtook, the delicate pasta flavors. Adding texture contrast were crispy sunchoke chips scattered over the top along with black garlic streusel and shreds of basil.
The crisp Baby Gem Lettuce salad tasted to me of autumn, with slices of local pear and red onion, a sprinkling of wonderful pistachio brittle, and a lovely Danish blue dressing. The sweetness and crunch of the brittle played off nicely with the creamy sharpness of the dressing.
Hamachi is one of my favorite fish, especially served raw, and when I saw Hamachi Crudo in the Ocean category, I knew I had to try it. All the components of the dish sounded exciting as well—meyer lemon puree, ginger, enoki mushroom, caviar, Serrano aioli, ponzu and sesame. Sitting right next to the open kitchen I watched as Chef Wise prepared the dish, and watched it grow more beautiful with the addition of each element. When it was all said and done, however, I felt that the super-fresh, delicately flavored and buttery textured fish was somewhat overwhelmed by the serrano aioli. Although the serrano had worked so well with the robust smokiness of the Wood Fired Cauliflower, in my opinion, it overpowered the gentle hamachi. Personally, I would have preferred the aioli served on the side.
From the Ranch section of the menu, my friend went for the Pork Sugo—tender pieces of the meat in a rich gravy, served over soft polenta, topped with shaved Asiago cheese and garnished with fried sage. He pronounced it extremely satisfying—part comfort food and part extravagance.
The dessert standout was the Carrot Cake. Yeah, I know, everyone does carrot cake, but pastry chef Jeremy Harville knocks it out of the park with this one. Five layers of moist, but floatingly light, spiced cake were interspersed with slathers of goat cheese frosting, giving a much appreciated zingy alternative to the usual cream cheese variety. A dollop of cream cheese ice cream kept that traditional element in play, however, and a medley of nutmeats added textural depth.
We also shared a “Snickers” for dessert—a pudding-like concoction of chocolate custard, caramel ice cream, nougat and peanuts. I understand what they were going for, but for a chocoholic like me, the custard wasn’t “chocolate-y” enough. That didn’t stop us from finishing every spoonful, however!
With this new addition to the local restaurant scene, I can unequivically state that San Diego dining is totally TRUSTworthy. Trust me.