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report on Tryst in Arlington--long

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We ate dinner there last Thursday, arriving around 6:30. The place was virtually empty, at least in the dining area in the back. We choose to sit up front by the bar, which was full with happy people. I noticed a woman sitting by herself in last seat of the bar, enjoying a glass of wine and a book. It's that kind of place.

The waiter/bartender came right away and took our drink order. For me, the best martinis in the area are at the West Side on Mass. Ave outside of Harvard Square. My SO had an apple martini, I had the Trystini. I thought both of them were too sweet,but maybe that's the nature of the beast. I always order them "dry" at the West Side, which, by the way, has the most unbelievable ginger martinis, served only during the cold months.

We ordered a very limited menu, so these comments are based only on a small sampling...I was in the mood for pasta so I ordered the entree portion of the squash ravioli in sage butter, and my SO had the grilled pork chop served with a lady apple stuffed with dates and sweet potato puree with a cider glaze. We could have ordered from the three course tasting menu, which is a very good deal for under $30. That includes a starter (fried oysters served on a nice sounding salad or the pear/bleu cheese salad--see below). Entree choices were either wild salmon or short ribs with choice of any dessert.

The pork presentation was very pretty, all components mounded up against each other. The pork was tender and just past slightly pink, the way it should be IMO. The raviolis were on the small side (like the kind you can buy frozen at the supermarket) and therefore the filling was skimpy. The browned butter with sage they were sauced with was perfect and not overly copious, and the shower of chives on top gave the plate some color, as well as a slight bitterness which worked in counterpoint to the sweetness of the squash. I've had lighter pasta at other places, but it was at least toothsome and not flabby. I'd work on making the pasta thinner and the raviolis larger to contain more filling--more of the Mario Batali look. Still, they were good, but I was a little hungry afterwards. To compensate, I ordered another glass of wine, which we were drinking at that point.

I just checked their menu online and noticed that the raviolis were to be served with radicchio and amaretti crumbs. Evidentially they ran out of both and substituted the chives. Now I'm annoyed that the waiter didn't tell me about the substitution.

Before the meal we had a salad with bleu cheese, roasted pear and sugared pecans. That was good and I'd order it again. It was dressed sparingly--thank you thank you--with a mild vinaigrette and the pear slices were served warm which was very nice contrast to the salad and the cheese.

We didn't have dessert because I knew my SO had bought a bag of peanut m&m's for me and I was really looking forward to eating them during the drive back home. They do, however, have a popular and really good carmelized banana tart. I had it when the restaurant first opened, which was the only other time I'd been there, and it was so delicious my table ordered two more of them. If I remember, it was served warm.

By the time we left the place was hopping. All the bar area tables were filled as was the dining area (or at least it sounded like it was). I will definitely go back and I've fantasized that this will become my neighborhood restaurant. They have really covered their bases on the repetoire of choices: a casual bar menu: flatbread with carmelized onions and bleu cheese, fancy hamburger, etc.; sophisticated and pricier entrees; and then the good value tasting menu if you want the whole shabang. The interior design is sophisticated, inviting, and cozy--it made me want to say, We're not in Arlington anymore Toto.

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  1. Nice post. It makes me want to try Tryst. I'm with you on sparingly-dressed salads, and hope they take your comments about the ravioli to heart.

    1. I'm not sure I agree that the interior design is sophisticated and inviting. I thought the dining room had a very odd feel to it, but liked the bar area. Yes, that banana dessert is great.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Joanie

        And I thought it was just my own vague uneasiness. I like the food here a lot but I think your observations about the dining room versus the bar are spot-on, Joanie.

      2. We went in November after not going for about 18 months, and were happy with our meals. My husband has the salmon and the salad w/ the bleu cheese. I had a roasted beet salad that I thought was great, and also the seared tuna flatbread. For dessert, we split the apple brioche, and it was wonderful. I had wine instead of a cocktail, and thought the by the glass offerings were fairly good.

        I do agree with Joanie that the room layout feels weird. Tea tray did a slightly better job with that space.

        As an aside, if you like the West Side's ginger martini, go try the gin gimlet at the Alchemist - that was a highlight of our meal there last week.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bluebell

          You're probably right about the dining room layout. Maybe I thought it looked better than it did because I had the trystini and then several medicinal glasses of wine. It's a difficult cavernous space no matter what. I think the ladies sportswear collection was situated there when the building was Cherry Webb/Touraines. It's just that I so much want to like and support a local independent restaurant that is competing against the relentless wave of mediocrity, eg, Not your average joes, which, if you've been around Arlington long enough, you'll recognize as this generation's version of Garrons.

        2. Yes, I am always amazed at how jammed NYAJ's is, no matter what day or what time. They are definitely more modestly priced than Tryst. And they are a step up from The Chateau, so I think that may be why they are so popular!

          Do you ever eat at Flora? We've had several special meals there, and they did a really nice job of expanding several years ago.

          1. I have not eaten at Flora in a really long time, mostly because of the price. Most of their entrees hover at or above the $25 mark, which makes it difficult for a weekday night. I don't know if they have a bar or "lighter fare" menu like Tryst does, but if they do, I would definitely try them again.