TRIO Wine Bar Happy Hours
The food is inventive, the wine list inspired, and the prices can't be beat
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Jan. 22, 2010
TRIO Wine Bar Happy Hours98 San Jacinto, 685-8300
Happy hours: Monday-Saturday, 5-8pm
Every once in a while, we stumble on a place where the food is inventive, the wine list is inspired, and the service is of the highest professional conduct. Unfortunately, finding all these traits in one place is rare and usually costly.
TRIO, the restaurant at the Four Seasons, fits the bill. Imagine our delight when we heard that the wine bar at the front of TRIO was having a sale. If you stop in between 5 and 8pm, there are about a dozen food items (many from the regular restaurant menu), all for half price. And while food for half price at happy hour isn't so amazing, how often is it of the quality the kitchen staff produces at TRIO?
We went one hungry night with the goal of trying most if not all of the food on the menu. After all, we expected the dishes to be scaled down to the size of mini tapas to compensate for the low prices. Wrong. These are full-scale dishes, generous in quantity and quality, just like the same dishes on the restaurant's appetizer menu.
We started with truffle macaroni and cheese ($7 regularly, $3.50 at happy hour), which was creamy and perfectly textured, with just the perfect amount of aromatic truffle oil. So many restaurants overpower their truffled creations, it's nice to find one where the aromas don't appear until the fork is right at your mouth.
The pork belly ($12/$6) is cooked flawlessly, with a crisp layer of meat and plenty of richness from the layers of fat. TRIO uses foods that are in season, and one of our favorites is a standard from Spain that we never expected to see stateside: a plate of grilled Padrón peppers with sea salt ($6/$3). These complexly flavored peppers have Scoville ratings that vary between bell peppers and the Fat Man atomic bomb, but the chefs were successful in picking out the hot ones so that all we had was a pleasant munch.
One of the great joys of TRIO is getting recommendations from its award-winning sommelier Mark Sayre. For the TRIO happy hours, Sayre handpicks about three dozen of the best wines from his extensive list and offers them by the glass and half off. We had four wines: a mineral-heavy Muscadet ($11/$5.50), a perfumed Soave Classico ($12/$6), a dry Carneros Merlot ($15/$7.50), and a Grenache blend from Priorat ($14/$7). The list changes all the time, so I recommend you ask Sayre for wine recommendations. He's one of the best in the business.
Care to guess the price for our entire meal of five dishes (we also had the baked Gulf oysters and the smoked shrimp croquettes) and four wines?
$52.52. Wow! I've paid more than that for bad Tex-Mex. This is a happy hour that is highly recommended.
TRIO wine bar happy hours, TRIO at the Four Seasons, happy hour, wine bar, truffle, pork belly, Scoville rating, Padrón peppers, Mark Sayre, Muscadet, Soave Classico, Carneros Merlot, Grenache, half-price wine
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