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Three’s company 

La Trinidade & The Listening Room is doing a lot of things right. An enjoyable after work special is one of them.

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5171 Salter Street is basically the Bermuda Triangle for restaurants in Halifax: everything that opens there tends to disappear.

It's good, then, that La Trinidade, the latest restaurant to pop up at that address---a restaurant with a name that immediately brings to mind the tropics---is actually named with a sort of reference to the three tenets of the old saying "eat, drink and be merry." In the dining room and lounge, they offer dinner, dancing and cocktails.

Two friends and I arrive for an early weekend dinner. The bar and dining room are virtually empty. The restaurant is split into thirds, with a heavy curtain cordoning off the lounge. The decor is clean and modern, the last vestiges of Mix Fresh Kitchen.

We are the only people in the middle third of the restaurant, where we edge into a roomy booth close to the lounge entrance. We can hear chatter through the curtain, and it's clear that this is where all the business is happening this evening.

Our server drops off menus and tells us that all appetizers are $5 and that there is also a $5 martini list---we have lucked into their daily happy hour.

We order martinis from the special menu. Each one is sweet and sort of watery, a collective neon rainbow of H.P. Lovecraft-looking concoctions. Frankly, they are not great drinks. But they are a fun diversion.

We decide to go all-in on the "Afterwork" menu and order each of the available appetizers: calamari, Dr. Pepper chicken and a trio of dips. The dips arrive first. Three little bowls of black bean dip, curried hummus and a spinach and artichoke spread come with a scattering of toasted flatbread triangles. The black bean dip is dry and chalky. The hummus is also underwhelming, with a flat sweet taste. The creamy spinach dip is the only one that is really tasty, but the small bread portion keeps us from finishing it; we run out before we're halfway through the dips, and instead of offering additional bread, our server removes the plate.

The calamari is quite good. While a little oily, the crumbly breading is nicely seasoned and the calamari itself is really well cooked, not rubbery. The accompanying chili-tomato sauce has a forward bite to it; the hum of the chili a very nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce on our chicken appetizer.

The chicken is a small serving---$5 appetizers are in cut portions---but is very good. The chicken is tender and juicy, toothsome with a light breading and the sauce has a slight caramel sweetness that is delicious.

For entrees we decide to split the club sandwich ($13.99), upgraded to include duck fat fries ($1.99) and poutine ($13.99).

The club sandwich has slices of chicken tucked into a hamburger bun with maple-glazed bacon, roasted tomato and a garlic aioli. The combination is quite sweet, and there is a nice layer of flavour in the char on the grilled chicken. The fries are the real star of this dish, though. Crispy, generously salted and hand-cut, they are by far the best thing we eat.

The poutine is good, too. The only weakness is the addition of smoked chicken, which overpowers the other ingredients. The demi-glace itself is not too heavy and nicely flavoured, rich enough to stand on its own. We pick around the meat to get to the squeaky curds.

La Trinidade isn't the best restaurant in town, but it clearly wants to be a good restaurant, and it is doing a lot of things right. So I hope it doesn't disappear any time soon.


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