Trummer’s on Main, Clifton

(Click here for the Jun 5, 2011 Review)

Trummer’s on Main is still the beautiful building it was, and the last few miles of the drive down Chapel Road are as nice as any in the area. The bar itself remains absolutely stunning, and was nearly empty on a Sunday night, even though the parking lot was full and upstairs was undoubtedly packed.

My bartender has been at Trummer’s for quite awhile, but he’s not going to be there much longer, as he’ll be seeking a new lot in life within the next couple of weeks – and I wish him the absolute best in his journey. I ended my drive out to Clifton with an Elliot Ness Amber Lager ($6) by Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland – I love this beer, and whenever I travel to the midwest, I keep an eye out for offerings by Great Lakes Brewing Company. Although Trummer’s is best known for their cocktails, they have a few really nice beers on their menu as well, and for some reason, I don’t seem to mind paying triple-retail for a $6 beer as much as I mind paying triple-retail for a glass of wine, or $12 for a cocktail (Trummer’s excellent cocktails, which I’ve enjoyed in the past, are $12).


Under Chef Austin Fausett, the menu at Trummer’s has really changed, and I ordered two dishes which sounded interesting to me – note that these are from the regular Dinner Menu, and not from the Bar Menu. I began with the Sweetbread & Chorizo ($15) appetizer with chimichuri mayo and plantains. I don’t like taking pictures of dishes, but it would have been much easier to simply show you what this looked like with a photo. It came out kabob-style, in a line, alternating sweetbread, chorizo, plantain, sweetbread, chorizo, plantain, etc., the entire line fixed to the dish by a very thin scraping of chimichuri mayo underneath. Off to the side, there were also three dots of the chimichuri mayo in case you wanted a tiny amount of extra dunking. The sweetbreads were lightly breaded and seemingly deep-fried, but were not hot when they arrived, the chorizo was like no chorizo I’ve ever eaten, and I wouldn’t have guessed it was chorizo – it was also seemingly lightly breaded and deep-fried, but I’m not quite sure how it was cooked. Nevertheless, it had excellent flavors, and was much more mild than what I was expecting, so it didn’t overwhelm the sweetbreads. The crispy slices of plaintain served as separators as much as anything, and if you ate from one-side-to-the-other (as I suspect most people do), it provides a textural crunch in one-third of the bites – the plantains were mild, and not unlike what you’d buy in a health-food store. Everything was bite-sized, although I cut each of my meats in two to make the dish last longer. The kabob-like line itself was perhaps eight inches long, so there wasn’t a huge amount of food here. The flavors didn’t really “mesh” so much as they “didn’t clash,” and the temperature was just not hot enough to make this a great dish – it *must* have been fried earlier, although I can’t say for sure. The one thing missing from this dish, as trite as it may sound, was love – this was just a presentation of food, and while both meats were quite good, cut properly, and seasoned well, it just didn’t integrate, and the only way I’ll remember it a year from now is to refer back to this note.

With my main course I got a glass of the NV Trummer’s House Label Cabernet Sauvignon ($10), which was a couple dollars less expensive than the name wines. This came from Barboursville, Virginia, and my bartender confirmed that it came from Barboursville Vineyards. A Chardonnay is also on offer for $8, and when I asked my bartender how the wine was, he said it was light, done in stainless steel instead of oak (“Buddy, you’re talking to me like I’m your best friend!”) My guess is that since it’s non-vintage, Barboursville sells off young-vines wine, and wouldn’t hesitate to marry different vintages in one cuvée, which is fine. What isn’t fine is that the wine was resting atop the counter of the bar, and was, simply put, one of the warmest red wines I have ever been served in a restaurant – and that’s saying something. My guess is somewhere in the mid-70’s – the room itself felt perfectly comfortable, but it must have been slightly hotter behind the bar because this was absolutely warmer than 72 degrees. It ruined an otherwise “pleasant” table wine, which has seen very little bottle age, and was dominated by fruit-forward flavors, but not astringent tannins and (blessedly) no oak. Nevertheless, the wine was ruined, and it was poured right when my entrée arrived, so there was none of this “Could you stick it in the freezer for ten minutes?” tactic available to use – I choked it down, but Trummer’s should have paid *me* ten dollars to drink this otherwise-pleasant quaffer.

I ordered the House Cabernet because I asked my bartender how well he knew the menu (“Fairly well”), and asked his opinion between the Cheshire Pork Loin Wrapped in Mustard Greens and the Local Angus Beef Flank Steak ($29) with dandelion greens, olive yogurt, asparagus, and lemon-anchovy butter – he said hands-down the Steak, explaining that it was really special. I said “A medium-rare flank steak sounds pretty good to me right about now,” and he replied, “Yes, they’re all medium-rare.” *CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!* “Is it cooked sous-vide, then seared?” I asked. “No, it’s seared first, then cooked sous-vide for three-and-a-half hours,” he replied. Given that we just had a dust-up about sous-vide cooking here, I went with the steak, yet again preparing to be open-minded.

This was an unusually presented flank steak (I’m used to a big, long thing flopping off the plate; this was sliced, with a little of the butter melting atop, the greens spread throughout, and the yogurt resting at the base of the plate). Sigh, let’s get this out of the way. First of all, it wasn’t medium-rare, it was – at best – medium, but closer to medium-well in terms of color. The texture of the steak was all wrong – despite being long cooked, it was both tough and flavorless, bordering on being dry. I’m not familiar with searing steaks *before* giving them a bath, but you should consider this a cautionary tale should you ever hear of such a thing again. It wasn’t “bad,” mind you, and this is *exactly* why I think sous-vide is such a revolutionary technique for places like jails or hospitals who can keep their costs down by not having chefs – you can put out a decent-tasting plate of food that even a fool couldn’t foul up, but the upper-limits of the quality aren’t very upper. I finished the dish – it was fine – but I’ll never order it again, that’s for sure. Twenty-nine dollars for this plate of food? No thank you.

I hadn’t eaten all day, and had worked out, so I knew I’d be hungry later if I didn’t drink eat something else. I asked my bartender what types of Bourbon they had, and he pointed out the list on the dessert menu. I noticed a Wild Turkey for $8, and just to make sure, I asked if it was the 101 (it was) – let me tell you something, folks, there’s *nothing wrong* with Wild Turkey 101, and it’s often better and cheaper than most bourbons on a restaurant list. As a daily-drinking Bourbon, I’ll take this anytime, and you should file that away for future reference. Once again, I asked my bartender about recommendations, this time for dessert, and he said, without hesitation, the beignets. “Stefan and Victoria scoured New Orleans, trying every beignet they could find,” he said, so I ordered the Cinnamon Sugar Beignets ($12), which were served freshly fried, and with a side-cup of piping-hot chocolate and whipped cream for dipping. My plate consisted of five very large beignets, each the size of a plum – now granted, these were not cheap, but they were delicious, and so massive that I ended up eating two, drinking the final gulp of hot chocolate, and taking three home wrapped in a paper napkin to have with my coffee the next morning (and it was a good call, too). I can gladly recommend that you order these if you come here – they really are good.

Trummer’s on Main is maintained in Italic, and if you’re in the Clifton area, is worth a visit, but do not order blindly – ask questions, and if you don’t like what you hear, keep asking. It’s a wonderful institution that has seen better days in the kitchen, but it remains very good in the grand scheme of things. Will I have cravings to hop in the car and drive out to Clifton? No, but I wouldn’t avoid it, either. Over the years, I’ve been here probably between five and ten times, and I will be back in the future to see what they’re up to. I have this little voice in the back of my head telling me the chef is better than what I experienced on this Sunday evening.


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