Trinity Place

Financial District
Very few noteworthy restaurants have opened near the World Trade Center site since 9/11. Businesses have rebounded, but dining options remain few and far between. So it was a remarkable ray of hope when Trinity Place, located directly off Ground Zero’s southeast corner, threw open its doors in mid-June and embraced the hungry.

The restaurant respects its geographical and historical context—it’s located inside the bank vault of a century-old gothic skyscraper and playfully embraces the underground setting. Two missile-silo-sized vault doors, 35 tons each, welcome you inside. Unfortunately, the designers lost focus: The first vault door leads to the lounge, which—despite leather banquettes and a 40-foot mahogany bar—feels a bit like a college watering hole.

Diners must walk past this tavern scene and through the vault’s rear door to enter the dining room. This should be the ultimate inner sanctum, yet it proves to be quite the opposite. Though the space is immaculately clean and tastefully decorated in dark wood, the acoustics heighten all sounds—whether it’s a cackling loudmouth, a crying baby or dance music from the bar—making it a tunnel of cacophony.

The menu of continental classics has been keenly designed to appeal to fat-cat bankers and Ground Zero gawkers alike. Appetizers are not exactly paragons of lightness: lobster bisque and steak tartare are two of the richer options, but there’s also a house-cured salmon (fine but unexciting), charcuterie (ditto), and a roasted onion tart with a dense pile of shredded caramelized sweet onions and a thin slice of Gruyère (the onions were cold, the pastry and cheese merely lukewarm).

Someone here also likes sandwiches a lot; you can have a Cuban, chicken, lobster BLT, veggie “summer sandwich” or kobe beef burger for lunch.

Dublin-born chef Donal Crosbie—who’s cooked around the world as well as at Danube and Morrell Wine Bar & Café in New York—has crafted a crowd-pleasing, if banal, dinner menu. His sautéed halibut comes with a summery tomato-based sauce and fairly dull vegetables like cauliflower and asparagus, which resulted in a fairly dull dish. The moist pan-seared mahi-mahi featured some upmarket touches—Yukon Gold potatoes, crème fraîche, American sturgeon caviar and a vodka sauce (top-shelf Belvedere)—but the fish was drowning in ancillary flavors.

All of the entrées I tried were attractively plated and worked fine, except one: The Financial District staple—steak—was a sorry, spongy, bland sirloin carrying no flavors from aging, no panache in preparation and no steak knife (a butter knife had to suffice). Desserts like peach tart and cheesecake with Bing cherry compote finished the meal adequately—polite applause only.

The best thing about Trinity Place—besides the vault doors—is the drink selection. Crosbie’s stint at Morrell’s seems to have paid dividends: The wine list is brilliant, with many excellent, obscure bottles from the likes of Steele from Lake County, California, and Shoo Fly from Australia. The beer menu comprises more than 50 options, with aficionado favorites such as Smuttynose and Duvel mixed in with offbeat selections like Lagunitas and Cooperstown’s Ommegang. Yes, this is the best new restaurant in the neighborhood in years. Sadly, that doesn’t mean all that much.
Venue name: Trinity Place
Contact:
Address: 115 Broadway
entrance on Cedar St
New York

Cross street: between Broadway and Trinity Pl
Opening hours: Daily 11:30am–4am
Transport: Subway: 2, 3, 4, 5, J, M, Z to Wall St
Price: Average main course: $23. AmEx, MC, V
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