84 Broad Street
Keyport, Monmouth County, New Jersey
The Artful Diner
December 29, 2008
For the gastronomically- and architecturally-inclined -- who also
enjoy a touch of ecclesiology thrown in for good measure -- a dining excursion
to Trinity is something of a must. You see, the restaurant makes its
home in a 128-year-old former church. Originally founded by Presbyterians, the
building had been in the hands of the Christian Science Society of Keyport
since the '50s before eventually being sold in 2005.
Proprietor Charles Merla's restorations were considerable -- including an attractive
mezzanine level -- but he still managed to maintain the structure's
compositional integrity, as well as add a number of tasteful decorative
embellishments that complement rather than contrast with the interior's rustic
simplicity. Wrought iron railings provide an appropriate supplemental touch, as
do rich maroon diaconal draperies. The main bar is tucked under the mezzanine
to the left as one enters; and there is also a small bar in the "lower
chamber." In addition, the bell tower has been transformed into a facility
for private parties, accessed via a spiral staircase; the former altar serves
as a stage for weekend entertainment; and the former pulpit is a haven for disc
jockeys. The cozy creative ambiance charms but doesn't overwhelm.
Architectural and historical elements notwithstanding, it is Chef Michael
d'Ennery's globe-trotting cuisine that adds sound gastronomic substance to Trinity's
ecclesiastically-driven decorative whimsy. Mr. d'Ennery, who has cooked in
California, is also an alumnus of several local restaurant kitchens, including
Solo Trattoria in Freehold. His presentations clearly demonstrate an innovative
integration of ingredients -- some might say a bit too innovative -- but they
generally acquit themselves with suitable distinction.
His Hauser Hill Farms beet "carpaccio," for example, incorporates
wafer-thin slices of roasted beets, an earthy smattering of what the chef terms
Great Hill blue cheese "brùlée," the dusky smokiness of applewood
bacon lardons, sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt, and tiara of micro beet greens.
Another intriguing combo is the marvelous pulled braised wild boar set on arepas
(3 flat corn cakes). In this instance, the supporting players are
"guacamole" mousse, queso fresco, parsley-oregano salsa, and
dabs of colorful pimenton oil.
Other innovative integrations include a jumbo lump crab cake presented over
local apple-sweet onion slaw buttressed by a zippy wasabi dijonaise and
"Mi Padre's Popper," smoked chicken- & Manchego-stuffed piquillo
peppers caressed by lime crema.
For the more conservative of appetite, there is also the baby spinach salad
replete with shaved apples, candied walnuts, fresh goat cheese, and
consummatory blackberry Champagne vinaigrette. An artisanal cheese plate is
When it comes to entrée selection, diners may choose between creative dishes
and more traditional presentations. Among the former, the pan-roasted halibut
is set on a bed of diced local butternut squash & wild mushrooms and
finished with an excellent lemon-chive beurre blanc. The fish was
slightly underdone and also rather lukewarm when it reached the table but still
quite good. Continuing in the seafood vein, local monkfish is presented
"saltimbocca" style, wrapped in Prosciutto di San Danielle, roasted,
and companioned by spaghetti squash, lentils, and a sage brown butter sauce.
Meaty offerings are also well represented. The veal Marsala, for instance,
is "re-constructed" with a grilled veal porterhouse and demi-glace/Marsala
reduction; the prime 14-ounce pork chop is embellished with an addictive
house-made barbeque butter; and the 16-ounce flat iron steak is served up with chorizo
chorreadas and a zippy chimichurri sauce.
And if you're hankering for an imaginative take on the great American
hamburger, be sure to try the chef's Kobe version. It is topped with a silky
slab of foie gras, onion marmalade & truffle cheese, and embellished
with first-rate fries and homemade ketchup.
Many of the straightforward main courses -- which the restaurant terms 'Pure
& Simple," are scaled down renditions of the chef's more creative
offerings. The grilled pork chop is sided with homemade applesauce; the grilled
flat iron steak is presented simply with lemon and olive oil; the broiled
halibut comes adorned with fresh citrus and brown butter; and the Kobe burger
is served sans the foie gras, but patrons have the option of
adding white cheddar and/or applewood bacon.
Side dishes provide a little something for everyone. The baby spinach sautéed
with garlic and extra virgin olive oil is excellent... ditto the
"loaded" mashed potatoes rife with white cheddar, bacon, and chives.
The white truffle risotto should appeal to those with more refined tastes, and
the macaroni & cheese indulges patrons with the ultimate in comfort fare.
Desserts, like the side dishes, are meant to appeal to a diverse audience.
The Hauser Hill Farms apple ménage à trois -- slices of salted caramel
apple, baby apple tart, and Apple Jack slushee -- is a treat for both the eye
and the sophisticated palate; on the other hand, the chocolate panna cotta
topped with Whoppers should certain assuage those with an incurable
The wine list isn't spectacular, but it is well chosen and proves an
excellent complement to globally-inspired cuisine. Particularly recommended are
the rich and oaky Bouchaine Chardonnay ($12.00 glass/$45.00 bottle) and the
heady BV "Signet" Cabernet Sauvignon ($15.00/$57.00).
Just one minor glitch... several dishes -- specifically the halibut, as
noted above -- arrived at the table lukewarm. This, perhaps, is due to the fact
that food must be transported to the mezzanine level via a dumbwaiter at the
rear of the room, which gives appetizers and entrées time to cool down. Other
than that, however, Mr. d'Ennery's presentations are right on the money.
One additional note... Should you decide to pay a call at Trinity,
you are certain to find the clientele as diverse -- and as diversely dressed --
as the cuisine. Whether casually attired in jeans or decked out in sartorial
finery, you're sure to feel equally at home.
Hours: Dinner: Weds & Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat,
5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; CLOSED MONDAY & TUESDAY
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual to smart casual
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Parking: Street parking; adjacent municipal parking lot
Price: Appetizers: $7.00 - $19.00; Entrées: $14.00 - $32.00; Desserts:
$6.00 - $10.00
Handicapped Accessible: Yes