surely due in part to the sorry state of our post-bush economy, gone are the days when restaurants needed six months in business to hit their stride. trigo is the second brand-new restaurant i've reviewed in the last month that was more than ready for its close-up after just a few weeks in business.
the restaurant is set on the ground floor of a particularly luxurious apartment building in northern tribeca. beyond the 20-seat brass bar, the opulent 150-seat dining room, designed by albert angel and elle kunnos, flaunts soaring ceilings with iron criss-cross latticework, all aglimmer with chandeliers that create the effect of the manhattan skyline turned inside out. twenty-foot windows line the east wall. i'm trying to remember the last restaurant i visited that didn't have a banquette; trigo's is tightly upholstered with soft suede. the staff, under the skillful management of yasir chaudhry, is highly motivated, friendly and well-informed. our comely servers, geoffrey and lisa, seemed to have been at the restaurant for months instead of three weeks.
chaudhry also created the cocktail menu. his "midnight manhattan" is one of the best i've had, blending woodford reserve bourbon with sweet vermouth, bitters and black cherry juice.
chef michael garrett, who manned the stoves at morrell wine bar and café and served as executive sous chef under marcus samuelsson at aquavit and then at merkato 55, has created at trigo a mediterranean market-driven menu with various categories like "farmstand," "butcher block" and "fish market."
virtually every dish that garrett creates has a distinctive twist. wild boar prosciutto is partnered with a piquant cubed pineapple/meyer lemon salad. the three-cheese plate-creamy spanish valdeón, firm piave, sweet and herbal fleur de marquis-comes with a luscious pistachio compote.
i've never had-or heard of-pickled pumpkin, but the slightly sweet crunchy pumpkin flesh cubes made the most refreshing appetizers i've had in a long time. garrett roasts a half-dozen varieties of flatbreads in a large hearth installed at the west wall of the dining room. lamb zatar (a middle eastern herb that tastes like a mixture oregano, marjoram and thyme) is coupled with red bell pepper on a lightly blackened, slightly sandy bottom crust.
our entrées arrived in giant bowls that made devouring the contents far easier than large flat plates.
an entire quartered guinea hen is perfectly seasoned, with tight flesh that is continually moist.
sliced pan-seared sirloin steak is also quite juicy, partnered with bone marrow mayonnaise and creamed kale-the best use imaginable for that cabbagey vegetable.
revital melech's desserts are as passionately prepared as all that preceded them. her strawberry lemon blossom fennel cake is very seedy with fennel, topped with a sheet of sugar and luscious lemon mousse. chocolate "doughnuts" are actually hefty doughnut holes, very lightly sugared and plated with a scoop of vanilla mascarpone. with such inventive and succulent cookery, swank and stylish décor, and friendly prices to boot, it's no wonder that trigo has already found a large and enthusiastic audience. -- trigo 268 west broadway at sixth avenue 212-925-1600 entrées: $18 to $28