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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Trocadero Gastrobar’s New International Spirit

Water Street restaurant reopens with new menu, updates

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Trocadero has been open since 2001. In that time it has become a destination for wine, cheese plates, brunch and items with a French flair. After recently closing for a brief time to receive updates, Trocadero has reopened.

The most obvious exterior change is a large, brilliant red sign that can be seen from Brady Street. Another sign dubs Trocadero a “Gastrobar.” Inside, the bar has been relocated to its original place in the triangular front room. Spacious booths have replaced the bar’s previous spot. The dining porch is fully glassed in, and the air is clearer now that Trocadero has gone smoke-free indoors.

In many ways, the place seems the same. For instance, there is something familiar about the scene of a couple sitting at a table overlooking the outdoor terrace. They have a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice and an enamel pot of steamed blue mussels. Later, a tuna Nicoise salad arrives with a thick slab of grilled ahi tuna. Yet there is also something different in this picture: The mussels have a Thai green curry sauce. And this is just the start of the changes. Steak and frites are still here, but now you will also find fish tacos and the aforementioned mussels, which can also be ordered with an onion and chorizo sauce.

The wine selection has shrunk dramatically in favor of a large Belgian beer list. And the cheese plate takes a back seat to a jalapeno cornbread skillet.

Who needs French onion soup? Instead, try the charred poblano and sweet corn chowder ($3.95-$5.95), a vegetarian soup with fresh corn kernels, tomatoes, onions, gentle hints of spicy poblano peppers and just a touch of sour cream. Mexican touches also appear in a starter item, Baja fish tacos ($9.95). This is a trio of tacos, each a single corn tortilla with small pieces of cod in a Corona beer batter, chipotle aioli, avocado mousse and Latin slaw. Remove a bit of the overly abundant aioli and enjoy some decent tacos. Jerk shrimp skewers ($9.95) sound Jamaican, but there are only the faintest hints of allspice on the four jumbo shrimp, and drizzles of a teriyaki-like sauce on the plate would indicate an Asian influence. Still, this is an excellent shrimp appetizer, featuring a red cabbage slaw with bits of fresh pineapple (now that’s more Caribbean in spirit).

Entrees are listed under the title “The Big Hunger Plan.” This is where you’ll find the steak ’n frites ($22.95). This is the sole French item on the menu, and even this entrée is topped with ancho lime butter. The mild ancho chiles also appear with the red devil chicken ($14.95), a half-bird served in four pieces with the bone. The batter has a reddish hue thanks to smoked paprika. The spicing level is not devilish at all; rather, it is on the mild, peppy side, in a twist on American Southern-fried chicken. Hitachino braised beef ($17.95) consists of small pieces of short ribs in a shoyu glaze. Hitachino is a Japanese brewery and shoyu is a true brewed soy sauce. The meat is accompanied by some veggies like scallions, cucumbers and snap peas, though the peas are not of the Asian variety. The key to this dish is the mango salsa, as the diced pieces of fresh mango add their trademark sweetness.

Tracadero’s sandwiches and burgers remain mostly unchanged. The gastro burger ($11.95) has black salt, Nueske’s bacon, caramelized onion, cheddar, sriracha mayo, lettuce and tomato. It may not be cheap, but it is a big burger made of prime beef and includes frites. Dipping sauces are available for a small additional charge.

The last major change is the addition of weekday breakfasts. This menu retains the quiche Lorraine and adds the jalapeño cornbread skillet.

Trocadero looks as good as ever, and the outdoor terrace is a fine place to nurse some Belgian ales. Enjoy the international spirit of the new Trocadero.

Trocadero Gastrobar

1758 N. Water St.

(414) 272-0205

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Credit Cards: All Major

Smoking: Outdoors Only