At Trinity, the name implies homage to the holy trio of New Orleans cooking — onions, bell pepper and celery — but the menu promises a modern interpretation of the city's cuisine. The restaurant space itself doesn't feel much like New Orleans, but it sure feels modern. The yawning marble-packed dining room features clean lines, high ceilings and slate-gray banquettes, creating a cosmopolitan vibe. A well-heeled crowd holds court, and the place feels worlds away from the grittier parts of Decatur Street outside.
Chef Michael Isolani's menu doesn't fall into one specific culinary style. Instead it stretches into many, though there's plenty of attention paid to regional ingredients.
Meals begin with warm dinner rolls served with salt-flaked butter. Crawfish and fontina beignets are as rich and guilt-inducing as they sound, but are a little too greasy. They're saved by bright green tarragon aioli with a strong anise flavor. Large Gulf oysters are featured heavily: raw, smoked, baked and broiled.
Fish, and seafood in general, fares well. Seared red snapper arrives with a golden, extra crispy exterior, and is showered with toasted pecans and juicy grapefruit segments. The plate gets an extra punch of color from a bed of lightly smashed avocado. It's a gorgeous, fresh dish bursting with texture and flavor. Tempura-fried soft-shelled crab is served with ginger and yuzu broth, a refreshing and tart take on a dish that's traditionally much heavier.
There was no shortage of seafood in the fruits de mer, where thick, chewy linguine is topped with salty bottarga, plump scallops, sweet blue crabmeat and, best of all, large hunks of flaky Gulf cobia. On one evening, the pasta was framed with a mix of bright marigold and red tomatoes for a refreshing, summer feel.
The menu is divided into awkward categories — "fingers," "forks" and "knives" — but it seems like an extension of the small- and shared-plate game, which is nice if you're in the mood to try several things.
Finely diced beef tartare studded with cornichons straddles the fat and acid line well, and a white bean medley is a nice complement. The dish is accompanied by a miniature Tabasco bottle, which is a precious touch and a bit gimmicky but adds a welcome touch of vinegar and spice.
There were a few early mishaps that appear to have been ironed out. On my first visit, ricotta gnudi were gummy and tough, not at all like the pillowy orbs oozing cheese I enjoyed on a more recent visit. The latter were soft and decadent, draped in rich wild mushroom and muscadine wine sauce and topped with thick slices of Parmesan.
A hearty portion of roasted pork shank was topped with thick-cut apple compote and seved on a bed of soupy green lentils with roasted carrots and thick, crunchy lardons. The flavors complemented each other well, even if a few carrots were undercooked.
The summer months have been too sweltering to enjoy Trinity's wraparound balcony overlooking Decatur Street, but I imagine it will be lovely there once cooler weather arrives. There, diners should be able to enjoy a little of both worlds — a modern take on the city's cuisine and a bit of old New Orleans.