Leaving Tru, I asked inly–before directing the same question to my brother, who dined with me–is there a better one-star Michelin restaurant in the country? If there is, I certainly haven’t found it.
From my initial email correspondence with the restaurant’s general manager to the deft handling of our table by Hanna, our server, and Aaron, our captain, every aspect of service demonstrated nonpareil attention to detail: the choice of black or white serviette, the synchronized clearing of plates, the sweeping of crumbs after every course, the ushering to the washroom (and the staff’s militant commitment to ensuring a safe return to your seat) and everything in between. And then there was the food, which is almost without fault, especially on the savory side. More on that shortly.
I made sure to get an early start to the day of my 6pm dinner, so that I’d be able to attend several panels on voting behavior before my brother arrived in the afternoon. By noon, though, mid-way through an underwhelming discussion about strategic voting in patriarchal parts of East Asian–few subjects could be further from my research interests–inanition set in due to two days of modest intake, and I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to make it until dinner on an empty stomach. Ultimately, I was glad I resisted the temptation to snack, for otherwise, I’m not sure I would have been able to manage the Niagara of plates that was about to descend upon us that evening.
We started the meal, as many restaurants do, with Comté-filled gougères (yes, I’m aware that other fine dining titans tend to use Gruyère), the ratio of which was tilted a bit more in the direction of choux pastry than I would have liked. But that’s not to suggest that their starch program isn’t on point. Indeed, Tru convinced me to end my year-long moratorium on consuming bread in restaurants. Let me explain why. Of the four breads on offer, I asked to have a round of rosemary impregnated brioche. With the gentlest squeeze, an indentation formed, leaving buttery residue on my digits. At that point I knew I would have to indulge.
As for the more substantial items, three courses in succession left me genuinely puzzled why the rouge guide would consider the restaurant inferior to the townhouse on Armitage from the previous night. First, there were the back-to-back fish courses–a roasted striped bass with a sensorily balanced combination of brown butter purée, pickled daikon, white soy powder and key lime supremes followed by tilefish anointed with an umami-laden mushroom broth, shitakes, sake, ginger and soy–beautifully cooked with each fillet teeming with moisture and flaking into bite-sized quadrilaterals.
And then there was the anticipation that preceded the Jidori chicken. First black serviettes were placed on the table. Not a minute later the plated dish arrived on a halved piece of timber. Finishing tableside, Aaron glazed the breast with a rosemary-chicken jus. With the foie gras cream, chicken crackling, quenelle of mushroom purée and pile of honshimeji, this was not a dish for the sodium sensitive, to wit, for me it was the jam.
Not everything was as stunning as the first twelve or so savory items, however; a coconut milk snowball palate cleanser that formally transitioned us into the dessert portion of the meal had the texture of poorly made ice cream: gritty, icy and the mango-passion fruit purée in which it was sitting was cloyingly sweet. And then there was the penultimate dessert course–a half inch plane of dark, dense Valrhona chocolate–which proved to be tantamount to the experience of driving with a flat tire: one may be able to make a little progress, but eventually it becomes clear that one has no choice but to stop. There was just too much chocolate and nothing the timid pear sorbet could do to cut down on the dish’s richness. However, with the unrelenting fusillade of friandise that included, inter alia, root beer floats, canalés, mango pate de fruits and exploding chocolate truffles, neither minor lapse had the slightest wobble in my affinity for Tru.