Restaurant Trokay in Truckee: A four-star dining experience

FOUR YEARS AGO, JOHN AND NYNA Weatherson moved to Truckee from the East Coast, where John had graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY; worked as a station chef at a three-star Michelin restaurant in Manhattan; and honed his skills under renowned chefs such as Daniel Boulud. Nyna had been the cheesemonger of the renowned Murray’s Cheese in New York.

John and Nyna, who are in their 30s, were drawn to our region for its mountain lifestyle. They were married in Tahoe, enjoy skiing and hiking in the Sierra, as well as Truckee’s role as the “cultural and nightlife nexus of the North Shore,” as The New York Times recently wrote.

John also listened to his mentors’ advice. As he summarized it: “Go to work at a great restaurant until you realize you can venture out on your own. Then go somewhere where you can help extend the reach of culinary arts in America.”

John and Nyna have done just that—with one of the most imaginative fine dining menus in our region. They opened Trokay, first in a space that had been Elijah Blue’s House of Coffee in Truckee, then in a larger, contemporary space on Commercial Row. Trokay is a Native American Paiute word for “everything is all right,” and the town derived its name from this word, according to the Tahoe Donner Historical Society.

“Trokay is a new American restaurant,” says John. “Though our food is rooted in tradition, it can be avant guard and modernist at times. It is a representation of us.”

Though not located in a big city, the restaurant won a four-star review from the Sacramento Bee, which wrote: “Truckee’s Trokay exceeds high expectations.”

Chef John’s menu items might include “Juniper, Harukei Turnip, Venison Consommé, Shimeji Mushroom,” “Brussels Sprout Confit, Pommes Parmentier, Elements of Mustard, Deep Fried Mt. Lassen Red Trout” or “Vadouvan Curry, Pink Lady Apple, Celery, Roasted Loin of Lamb.”

Dessert might include “Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Mango, Exotic Fruit in Variations, Coconut,” and cheese might include Capricious (goat) from Achadinha Cheese Co. in Petaluma or Moses Sleeper (cow) from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT. Nyna is a trained affineur (one who ages and purveys cheese).

The wine program compliments Chef John’s cuisine, with wines from California, Europe, South Africa and Australia. He also offers a wide selection of craft beers.

Trokay’s food is made from fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, including farms from within a 100-mile radius. The purveyors include Durham Ranch Natural Beef and Kanaloa Seafood Market, both well-known for their sustainable product sourcing.

The cooking relies on a wide range of modern and traditional cooking techniques: from roasting to sous vide to cold smoking.

Trokay also is known for superlative customer service. John points to a 76-page training guide for wait staff. No detail goes unnoticed, including guest dialogue. He also keeps track of its guests’ special needs or favorite wines.

The restaurant’s interior has a natural, contemporary feel. It also is dramatic, including a rock wall that is more than 100 years old, exposed wood-beam ceiling and reclaimed wood throughout.

Trokay’s kitchen is ultra-modern, including induction cooktops that have twice the BTUs of a commercial gas cooktop. “With its energy efficiency, kitchen geek appeal and growing reputation for power and precision, induction cooking may be the iPad of the kitchen,” as the Times has written.

Trokay is building a loyal following. Its customers have included celebrity chef Traci des Jardins, who owns Jardinière in San Francisco, launched Manzanita at the Ritz Carlton-Lake Tahoe and has won a James Beard award. Others have include Nick Kokonas, the restaurateur behind Alinea, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago, as well as others. “Trokay is a wonderful find in Truckee, comparable to the best San Francisco restaurants,” as one diner put it.

(Credit Image: © Jose Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee/ZUMA Wire)

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