Trio in Tremont creatively hits the spot (dining review)

August 23, 2018

Trio in Tremont creatively hits the spot (dining review)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Trio is really about sizes: Big dreams, huge flavors, small menu. And a little luck.

A 100-year-old horseshoe hangs over the interior doorway. It belonged to co-owner Meghan Pender’s grandmother, whose pride, joy and confidence in her granddaughter comes through clearly in her lilting Irish accent.

But Trio is existing on more than the luck of the Irish. To call the cuisine modern American is correct, but the menu has more twists than a grand-prix track.

Pender and Anthony Scolaro used 111 Bistro – their fine and established restaurant in Medina – as a launching pad to expand northward with a funkier approach. Scolaro had long hoped to open in Tremont.

White tablecloths give the place a nice upscale feel without pretense. The restaurant has not settled in to steady busy or slow times. It depends on what’s going on in the area, we’re told.

Bill, a gregarious and knowledgeable bartender, guided us through the menu’s food and drink offerings on a Friday, one that started with a crush of early diners before leveling off into a quiet night.

First, do not pass up small plates.

Who would have thought a thick bean-based concoction would go over well as a starter? The favas dish was creative and an excellent beginning. Its zesty mix of Beluga lentils, avocado, cucumber, sheep’s ricotta, salsa seca and agave results in sweetness and creaminess. A side of crostini would have enhanced this dish.

Carbonara was a trendy take, creamy like the traditional dish but very peppery and dark from the black garlic pasta. Love the fact this comes as a small plate.

On one visit we ordered carrots – yes, carrots – as a small plate. Scolaro will blow your mind with this dish, considering most of us relegate the vegetable as a pal to a main dish whose sole purpose is to infuse a tad bit of natural sweetness, like that cute date you had in high school but who offered little substance in the relationship.

Our server Jennifer recommended this, carrots dotting the circumference with sunflower romesco, a nut-based sauce; tarragon gremolata, a zesty herb mixture; curry yogurt and carrot frond.

The tomato-bulgur-parsley broccoflower tabbouleh was a perfect nosh: Fresh-tasting and light, it whet our appetites as we sipped drinks.

A pair of entrees shined. Arugula pasta was different because of the herb, which adds a nice bitterness, and the addition of smoked tomato sauce offers a richer flavor than a traditional Pomodoro sauce. Moroccan olives make this the restaurant’s take on puttanesca.

Halibut was very good, thick, simply seasoned and well-cooked, but the sides are like a supporting actress who outshines her leading man. Quality roasted mushrooms give a savory earthiness that results in great interplay of flavors and textures. Pea puree, asparagus, fingerling potatoes, pea tendril and olive oil round out the dish.

The creativity doesn’t stop with dessert. Occasionally, a good restaurant with classic dishes will offer traditional sweet endings to a meal, maybe drizzle something different atop a sugary treat, throw in a European-sounding name, and voila: Exotic dessert. But at Trio you choose between parsnip tiramisu, meringue, a truffle tasting and the simply named but tempting cake and ice cream (with pistachio cake and anise).

We chose the truffles, well-placed and distinctive chocolates (salted caramel, pistachio, berry, orange and dark chocolate). Different flavors and varying textures with each bite make this stand out while satiating chocoholics. Definitely shareable nibbles.

Before opening a couple of months ago, Scolaro told me, “You hope to delineate yourself, to find yourself.” His creative touches in the kitchen are doing just that.

Cleaning the plate: The owners have crafted a thoughtful, creative menu, honing in on a montage of flavors that burst out in Tremont. From vegan to gluten-free and an emphasis on small plates, Trio is hitting its marks.

More coverage: To learn more about the owners, their mission and the space, check out our story as the restaurant was about to open in June.

More on Trio

• It’s in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, in the former Bac Asian space. It’s at the T-intersection of W. 14th Street with the one-way westbound Auburn Avenue, a block south of Lincoln Park. There is a patio. Parking is mostly street.

• Music was a funky mix on Friday nights and included the Black Keys, The Strokes, Kaleo and Mumford & Sons. Volume was perfect to have a conversation.

• A pair of televisions sit over the subway-tiled bar.

• Taps were getting ready to rotate, with Great Lakes Dortmunder coming in, but on our journey we had an excellent foursome flowing: Masthead from Cleveland; Lord Hobo, a fairly recent offering in Northeast Ohio by way of Massachusetts; Founders of Michigan and Victory of Pennsylvania.

• Fifteen wines by the glass are offered; all but three cost in the single digits. Nice find: The Prisoner Snitch Chardonnay.

• Cookbooks line small pipe shelves, with Tyler Florence’s recipes, vegetarian offerings and a pasta bible providing muse for chefs and diners alike.

Taste Bites

Where: 2661 W. 14th St., Cleveland.

Contact: 216-952-7035.

Online: triotremont.com

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, closed Sunday. Happy hour is 4-6 p.m. including Saturday, with $3-$6 bites and $2 off drafts and glasses of wine, plus $5 cocktails.

Prices: Small plates, $7-$14; vegan, $8-$13; entrees, $18-$37; dessert, $6.5-$8.

Reservations: Parties of six or more.

Credit cards: All major.

Cuisine: Modern American.

Accessibility: Decent. A step to the foyer. Much of the dining room is on one floor, though there is an elevated area.

Grade: ****

Trio. 2661 W. 14th St., Cleveland. 216-952-7035; triotremont.com (MB) The owners have crafted a thoughtful, creative menu, honing in on a montage of flavors that burst out in Tremont. From vegan to gluten-free and an emphasis on small plates, Trio is hitting its marks. $$$

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