3752 Park Boulevard, Hillcrest
It seems like everyone wants to be at Hillcrest’s Trust, ordering expensive hipster nibbles and struggling to be heard above the din (though in all fairness we are assured that the installation of noise baffles will take place any day now).
The fashionably Mod-ish and the flannel-clad brush elbows with older couples, and a surprising number of suits indicate one of two things: either the local menswear game went into sudden death overtime, or the crowd includes a higher grade of customer. Considering the intensity of the PR campaign waged on the restaurant’s behalf, the latter seems more likely.
This restaurant exhibits a stem-to-stern conceptual unity that hints at loads of cash in the background. As the well trained, well mannered, perfectly competent server delivers a single hard cider atop a quarter-sheet tray apparently reserved for that express purpose, the impact of this totality of design comes crashing home.
There is a certain ceremony in the presentation, as if uncorking a Grand Cru Bordeaux rather than a bottle of ersatz beer with a street value south of two dollars. Should we the diners belay conversation, the better to admire the spectacle of opening and pouring an Angry Orchard? That’s an honest question.
In terms of pure prose, and at nearly comparable cost, Trust’s menu could substitute for Nine-Ten’s. Few readers would be the wiser. Instead of white tablecloths and chandeliers, you have cartoons on the walls and exposed HVAC fittings.
If you have $18 to spend, you can get a meager portion of octopus, indelicately splashed with salsa verde and laced with indistinct wads of pepperoni. $14 will get you clumsy tartare made from too-lean beef laid across a crisp slice of lavash. A mere $12 buys a quintet of hush puppies, served with a pile of deli ham and a schmear of sweet honey butter. A handful of shrimp with some andouille sausage and garbanzo beans in a sauce of indeterminate provenance will cost you $14. If you amortize the cost of the lamb meatballs with tzatziki, lentils, and shallots, they’re only $3.50 each.
Cheerleaders may applaud the “you can come here any time” casual-dining setting (albeit with special occasion prices). A cynical gaze might see a child dressed in his father’s shirt, playing restaurant by serving apple juice and Twinkies from a silver platter to his adoring parents who coo with delight because they feel that they have to.
But all is not lost. The peanut butter Cap’n Crunch dessert, which incorporates actual breakfast cereal, seems like a delightful tribute to every chef who ever punched out after a long day, went home, and poured himself a huge bowl of Kellogg’s before zonking out in front of the TV.
And instead of loading up on overrated craft beers, the restaurant’s beverage program explores some fun wines (for something different, try Le Cirque Grenache Gris from the French Catalan coast) and emphasizes cocktails that tend more toward classically presented spirits than needlessly elegant variations on drink. Tom Collins and an actual Negroni? Yes, please.
These few compliments aside, Trust doesn’t merit another visit. There is something to be said for blowing your budget and still leaving hungry. And that something is not “good.”