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Clearly, Leinonen has put plenty of thought into this artful fare. But has he thought about how it comes together as a meal? Horseradish is listed as a component in four dishes. One night, horseradish overwhelmed not just the silky white-bean purée it was in, but everything else — crumb-topped whitefish, Hollandaise and tomato-cucumber salad — on my plate, although the pungent root minded its manners in the bed of fingerlings underneath my friend's New York strip. And another night, it played nicely with the Dijon underneath fried Havarti in the "Ham & Cheese" appetizer. But who wants to spend more than $100 on a meal and have to contend with such an assertive flavor at every turn?

Horseradish isn't the only unwelcome diva at Trillium. A savory butternut-squash pudding is exquisite, or at least it would be without the bacon vinaigrette drowning out the rightful star. Spiced cranberry semifreddo suffers a similar fate, with a fantastic holiday flavor you can hardly taste, hijacked as it is by chopped pecans.

While the kitchen seems to be trying to impress, the service does not; it swings from superb to nearly nonexistent. One night, no fewer than three large groups were squeezed into the dining room, overpowering nearby two-tops and requiring the server to wiggle around their chairs and smaller tables to avoid a collision. Meanwhile, the other side of the restaurant sat empty. I have waited thirty minutes after ordering for the chewy, herb-topped rolls that come with every meal, and on numerous occasions have had to ask the server to speed things up so that my two-hour meter wouldn't expire.

Trillium's toast Skagen, a classic Swedish starter, piles on the shrimp.
Mark Manger
Trillium's toast Skagen, a classic Swedish starter, piles on the shrimp.

Location Info

Map

Trillium

2134 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80205

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Downtown Denver

Details

Slide show: Behind the Scenes at Trillium

Trillium
Maple-smoked trout $7
Air-cured beef tenderloin $7
Chicken, bacon and mushroom terrine $7Ham & Cheese $10
Butternut squash pudding $11
Toast Skagen $11
Blue-prawn ravioli $29
"Never Never" New York strip $29
Lake Superior whitefish $24
Pan-roasted chicken breast $20
Cranberry semifreddo $7
2134 Larimer Street
303-379-9759
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Sunday

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Leinonen and his staff have invested loads of heart in Trillium, named for a rare blue wildflower that he says only blooms when conditions are right. In restaurant terms, those conditions are superb food, fun decor and gracious service, and Trillium has the potential to meet all of them. But until Leinonen sees the establishment from a diner's perspective and recognizes the places where the experience can fall short, that prized, four-star flower might not bloom as often as hoped.

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8 comments
rawdoggin
rawdoggin

Nicely written Gretchen.  Your review gives essential background info on the chef and the restaurant, but focuses primarily on what escaped many of your predecessors, the food.  Thanks for avoiding a meandering narrative of how and why you found yourself at Trillium, and then giving us a clear and concise editorial on the food and atmosphere.  I will try it myself based on your review.  Cheers.

jenna-furrr
jenna-furrr topcommenter

I love Trillium as well, but I think you nailed down exactly what few gripes I have about the place. It has never made sense to me to leave the bar area for the reasons you state. I dunno if they still have the truffled tater tots and Hollandaise sauce on the menu, but I'd be ass-pained if those went away.

Arf_Arf
Arf_Arf

I love Trillium and have frequented it since it opened.  I have to say that Gretchen has spotted the major flaws.  The price point is a bit difficult to manage unless you're eating snacks at the bar, and service has gotten stuffy.  There's been some turnover in staff since the restaurant opened, and the restaurant has lost some of the warm, welcoming atmosphere that made it such a great place in the first half of the year.  I certainly hope Ryan reads the review and takes to heart the critiques it contains--improve on these minor points, and Trillium will continue to earn the accolades it's gotten so far.  Ignore these points, and he might lose more customers to the atrocity next door (Ignite!).

ScubaSteve
ScubaSteve topcommenter

The food sounds too fancy and convoluted to me, so I guess I won't be going there.

Donpopadopolis
Donpopadopolis

Yeah... I got food poisoning from oysters there. They definitely need to pay more attention to their raw seafood.

ybarcewski
ybarcewski

"hijacked as it is by chopped pecans"  - "Hijacked" - love that word in this use - I think it will be my word for the week!

 
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