I still look forward to a trip to the bank where the teller hands me a fistful of those quarter-sized lollipops in the crinkly wrappers along with my deposit receipt.
The bank-inspired Trust & Co. is trying to create just that kind of allure. It’s the brainchild of 44-year-old Jerry Flynn, who started out in his native New York as a busboy and has tried his hand at virtually every job in the restaurant and hotel industry since. Together with chef Pablo Zitzmann, he has created a welcome destination where good old-fashioned hospitality and craft cocktails rule the day. The place is as earnest as a Boy Scout helping Grandma across the street.
Weekday happy hours feature a good selection of discounted cocktails and bar snacks. Nightly specials include prime-rib night and half-price wine bottles.
The space is divided into an outside, covered patio with some 30 seats, a lively bar dotted with half a dozen large screens and a cozy booth-lined dining room surrounding the stainless open kitchen. The faux brick walls, concrete floors and industrial clock are meant to evoke a retro-futuristic steampunk look but come off a bit like a chain wannabe. Still, with wide red leatherette booths and high ceilings (that could use some acoustic tiles), the space is comfortable, roomy and welcoming.
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So, too, the young and eager waiters who are well-trained but not reading from a script.
Chef Pablo, a Colombian American whose résumé includes stints at Nobu, Sra Martinez and The Matador Room, shows off his multi-culti influences on the eclectic menu. Udon noodles and roast chicken share space with ceviches, bucatini, short rib ravioli, oysters, charred octopus, kale salad and fried rock shrimp.
A popular starter meant to be shared is date and bacon croquettes — inexplicably seven to a serving — dished up crispy and hot with a gentle golden breading. The house-made quince compote for dipping is a sweetly subtle counter to the salty crispness. The interior could have been slightly gooier, but the flavors were right.
An array of flatbreads, cracker-thin and nicely pliable oblongs that hold an array of tasty ingredients, are a great way to start a meal while looking over the menu. Ours had nibs of sweet fig and thin slices of Serrano ham. I would have preferred the ham to be added after the oven to avoid the leathery texture. Still, the proportions of toppings and seasoning are spot on.
A bountiful beet salad is a tasty and colorful blend of flavors that includes peppery arugula and a tangy yogurt dressing. The promised toasted quinoa consisted of a few dozen specks that would more likely be considered a decorative garnish than an actual ingredient.
A stunning heirloom tomato salad features candy-sweet hunks of local yellow and red jewels showered with shards of crystalline Serrano jamón and threads of fresh-cut basil balanced by nice smiles of local oranges. However — also true of the beet salad — the pieces are as big as ping pong balls, and you pretty much have to cut each one.
The house burger, a tender blend of chuck, short rib and brisket, is delicious — though ours came horror-show bloody despite being ordered medium. The kitchen was quick to remedy the situation and was sure to bring fresh, hot skinny fries when the burger came back done perfectly, though the bun was scorched black.
The tender skin-on duck breast is cooked sous vide, then pan-seared with an aggressively seasoned crust of coriander and fennel seed. It’s plated with a deliciously complex chocolate and chili mole and a Vietnamese-inspired sweet-and-spicy mango salad. A real standout.
The local snapper over a somewhat bitter turnip purée is perfectly seared and firm.
Grilled artichokes is the only outright disappointment. They are actually little flimsy triangles of artichoke hearts topped with tabs of silvery boquerones swimming in a salty, spinachy chimichurri that looks gorgeous but lacks garlic or any bite at all.
Desserts — like a broken, pancake-thin panna cotta — literally fall flat. This one features a bright-green basil sauce that has a sharp tang but not enough lemon to give it spark. Meanwhile, a coconut cake conjures visions of light and fluffy birthday layers but instead appears in the form of a dense brick. The so-called alfajor, really more like a dulce de leche flan, is not at all what one expects.
A fantastic drinks program with a great mix of classics and innovative concoctions also includes wines by the glass, a good selection of local craft beers and other on-tap selections. The maple Old Fashioned begins with a smoke-filled glass and includes a house-made maple simple syrup infused with cacao and vanilla with a shot of Knob Hill Rye Whiskey poured over an ice sphere — it’s a complex and fantastic rendition of a classic.
The menu needs a rewrite, including price adjustments in order to prepare guests for what they will actually get on the plate. And the kitchen staff could use a good primer in basic knife skills. Beyond the salads, many dishes suffer from sloppy cuts and odd proportions.
It might make sense to reconsider the positioning of the hostess station, too, since on multiple calls for reservations and information, the hostess simply couldn’t hear me.
The intention of this wholesome newcomer is endearing and authentic. Earning the trust of the younger crowd might take a little more focus and some better sweets on the way out.
Follow Victoria on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE and on her Facebook fan page.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.
If you go
Place: Trust & Co.
Rating: ☆ ☆ (Good)
Address: 2 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily; kitchen hours vary
Prices: appetizers $8-$16; entrees $17-$32.
FYI: Noise level can get loud inside; craft cocktails and great wine and beer selection; corkage $15 per bottle; metered street parking; valet parking for special events; weekday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m.; reservations available at opentable.com; AX, DS, MC, VS.