Any meal that costs over $100 for two people should leave you with great food memories. Unfortunately, a recent meal at Tristan left me with the most intense nausea I’ve had since I last ate a pile of 3-day-old lukewarm boiled peanuts from a gas station. The price tag that came with this nausea is infuriating and makes my poor grandfather do 1080’s in his grave.
Oh yeah, half of my table was also sickened by the meal (there were 8 of us total).
There is a lot I do not like about Tristan and because of its stature and price tag I do not feel bad expressing these things. First, the dining room (recently renovated?) looks like a bad 1990’s vision of the modern future, at once expensive and tasteless. Also, check out the Demolition Man style sculpture sinks in the bathrooms. At any upscale restaurant, I hope for a dining room that makes sense in relation to the menu, whether it’s rustic like La Fourchette’s, dark and stately like Oak’s, or minimal and modern like Fig’s, for example. Actually, looking at it that way, Tristan’s décor does sync up with the experience.
The food at Tristan is undeniably fancy and prepared with obvious skill and technical knowledge from its chef. At the same time it really lacks soul and is more of a display of technique than anything. I get the sense that the chef is just going through the motions. The food is formulaic. He wears a chef cam. One of the sauces (chocolate BBQ) is bottled for sale. What results is that the total experience at Tristan tells you with a fair amount of force that you are enjoying the impressive food and ambience without even asking you if you really like it. There is no subtlety here. The chef bottles his own sauce it’s so good!
But it’s not. It’s expensive and cheesy, and a lot of it is downright bad and sickening, like the butterfish and seared fois gras over lima beans and a sickly sweet, torrid butter sauce with kiwi-strawberry gastrique (it is hard to think about this dish without a wave of nausea hitting me). Or the tuna over fava beans, which made a companion make some hilarious faces in disgust. Or fishy tasting scallops over way too rich risotto. Those were the worst, the rest was average…asparagus appetizer, decent salads and so forth…and a few things were very good like the duck appetizer (delicious, tender slices of duck breast) and of course, the tomahawk ribeye (ribeye is almost impossible to screw up with all of its delicious marbling).
Tristan is like a culinary version of the band Dreamtheater who can shred through every musical scale in the world and play in some impossible African time signature that white people can’t even perceive. But who wants to listen to Dreamtheater? In the end it is soulless musical masturbation. Likewise, Tristan can prepare fancy food, plate real pretty, use a chef cam, bottle its sauces, and dream up any other number of gimmicks, but I will not be paying attention, because like listening to Dreamtheater, I do not enjoy what they are doing.