Tonight Matt and I went to Trata at the Culver Rd. Armory (tratarochester.com) for dinner. I didn’t go when it first opened, because of some negative reports from my friends. But I’m over it now and here to see for myself. I’ve made plans to come here 3 times and they’ve all been canceled. Finally, ages later and under new management as I understand it, I think we’ll get a fair cross section.
For starters, this place is way larger than I expected, and at 7:00 on a Friday night, absolutely packed. Love all the exposed brick & large windows. High ceilings relieve some of the crowded feeling. The lighting is well done and there are smaller dining spaces beyond the bar area – I was glad when we were seated in a smaller section and could actually hear each other. The trendy industrial style interior is deceiving thought, because the menu is not nearly as interesting as the decorative effort implies…
…And I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Take the appetizer section – you can get chicken fingers – or you can get a duck confit quesadilla with Gruyere, rosemary and cranberries topped with crème fresh. What does this mean? You can’t make all the people happy all the time right? You don’t expect much if you order a steak at Denny’s right? But we have complete faith in their ability to drop frozen things in a fryer. So a menu like this where nothing matches and there is no theme makes me think that the chicken fingers ought to be exceptional but I’m skeptical of the duck quesadilla. Head about to explode and I haven’t even considered my cocktail yet. So of course we get the duck thing (as opposed to an extremely expensive version of something incredibly ordinary) and to my great surprise it was really good. They didn’t skimp on the duck meat, the tortilla was greasy like anything duck, but still crunchy, the flavor and textures were surprisingly, really well balanced – sweet, savory, creamy, crunchy. And the crème fresh which I thought would be an overkill of creaminess turned out to be perfect. Thumbs up on that.
Back to the cocktail – Trata has a short craft cocktail list. I ordered the “white whisky crush” which is made with the local Black Button moonshine, muddled orange, & a little black cherry. The flavor of this combo is really nice and refreshing, however, there is no way that there was a shot of moonshine in that glass. I ordered a shot separately to taste it by itself so I could find it in the drink’s flavor. After tasting it (delicious in moonshine world I thought, so cheers to Black Button) I ended up pouring the rest of the shot into my drink to turn my juice into a cocktail.
Specialty burger list: Matt ordered a burger which was very good. Gate House did this first though so no points for originality – but a good burger none the less. Cooked the way he asked, it was tender & delicious. The toothpick that identified the burger as medium-rare was a nice touch. Actually, the most ingenious element of the collective evening was just a sidekick – the smoky honey flavored sauce that came with the burger. I stole more than one sweet potato fry (some of the better fries I’ve ever had) to dip. They should find other ways to use this on meat.
On the other hand, after quizzing our waitress on the bacon in the bacon wrapped sirloin, I decided on the scallops. Mistake. This dish is just wrong and I’m amazed it’s on the fixed menu. The scallops were burnt and chewy, which is not the fixed menu’s fault, but the bed of vegetables it sat in just didn’t go together at all – chucks of mushroom, gnocchi and grape tomatoes were each gnocchi-sized, and meant either taking a huge bite to taste the combo or having a buffet of little bites.
The texture combination of gnocchi and scallop is really strange together and the sauce, which would have been good in its own, ends up way over complicating everything. This is probably the strangest combination on one plate I’ve ever had in a restaurant. No seasoning, no salt left the tomatoes bitter, and the red pepper in the red pepper/shrimp sauce didn’t carry over to any other element of the dish. Sauce is good – put the gnocchi in the sauce, throw a few grilled shrimp on top, sprinkle some salty cheese on top and walk away.
Our server did a very nice job. Friendly, knowledgeable about menu and drinks, offered specials without reading off of a card and was willing to stay and answer questions without seeming to have one foot on to the next task. Everything was delivered in a timely manner, ice was still ice, food was still hot.
We spent $81 & change + tip.
Overall, I can see why my food snot friends weren’t crazy about the place. It’s a hip place to gather, so kudos to the architect but get a burger if you’re hungry, and stick with beer and wine. You can always, and probably should, buy your own Black Button (blackbuttondistilling.com).