Restaurant Review, Ten Tables Cambridge

The never ending race to Friday night, where M and I get home, and ask each other, “So where are we going out to eat this weekend?” I hadn’t come up with any new places, so I went through OpenTable curious to see where we could get into. Ten Tables popped up, the Cambridge location, and we called, just to see for the hell of it if we could get in. 915pm, while insanely late for us, we weren’t in any rush to get out of the house, so we took that reservation.

We arrived to Ten Tables-Cambridge (TT-C) around 850pm and approached the hostess stand. We were told that our name was not to be found on the reservation list, but none the less, they would see if we could be seated. Ten minutes later, we were seated along the main aisle of the dining room. I noticed it a bit loud for indoor-voice conversation, but not overwhelming.

It took at least five minutes before we were offered water and then another several more minutes before the water arrived in a glass carafe. Several more minutes elapsed before our water arrived with some pretty good soft bread and olive oil. A pretty good start to the meal while even though the service seemed a bit inattentive.

We ordered our dishes, one appetizer and one entree each. While we were sitting there talking, we noticed that our waiter was discussing the tasting menu to a couple next to us. After he had tended to their needs, we pulled him aside and asked about the tasting menu, which we had not been told about from the outset. A bit odd, but four courses, chef’s choice at $40 a piece, we decided it was the way to go, to truly experience what the chef had to offer. We noticed that our server was much more explanatory with other parties, talking about TT, the thought behind how the food is sourced, how the kitchen can accommodate most food preferences and allergies. I guess we expected that a resaurant that had such good reviews would give us customers more of a welcome feeling rather than ask for what you want and dash off.

Our first course was by far our favorite, a small bowl of mussels on top of a crustini with sauteed spinach. Just the right amount of garlic and oil so that the bread was slightly soggy. I was using my bread to lap up all the garlic-oil sauce I could get to. The second course was a duo of scallops on top of farro with olives, with a strong zest of what tasted like lemon. I found the scallops well cooked, but the lemon zest over-powering the entire dish. I ended up pushing what zest I could find off to the side. The olives were cut up small and mixed in with the farro. I myself am not a fan of olives at all, but did not find that they dominated the dish. M felt otherwise, and left most of her farro on the plate.

The third dish was a piece of steak, sliced thin, over vegetables in what tasted like a balsamic vinegar reduction. I found this the most uninteresting part of the evening. While I do understand it was chef’s choice, I must imagine there are people who have strong preferences over how they like their meat cooked. I like mine more medium-rare, while M is more a medium- well person. The meat came out in more of a medium preparation. It was quite tough, and lacked any real distinctive flavor other than the vinegar on which it sat.

Before desert we were given a palette cleanser of sour-orange sherbert which was quite tart. It did its job, the memories of the past three dishes had been successfully erased. The dessert was a chocolate terrine with Thai basil ice cream. For those people who enjoy Thai food and the spices it features, the ice cream will bring a familiar flavor to your tongue. I must say it was the most thought-provoking dish of the evening. Definitely not what you expect, but it easily cut through the other flavors. The chocolate terrine was a square of sweet rich-but-not-too-rich chocolate. I felt that again a restaurant that is popular among Boston foodies, could have made a much more interesting dessert.

I must say, having read reviews of the Ten Tables-Jamaica Plain location, and how it was a must-eat for so many of Boston’s residents, I found TT-C underwhelming. The hype and excitement of a new location for TT was much talked about in the local newspaper rags and food blogs and forums. While M and I do plan to go to TT-JP to sample the food and make a determination about whether we truly enjoy the resturant’s presentation, we are going to hold off for a while. Lets hope that only the young age of TT-C contributed to its underwhelming presentation. One always has to take reviews with a grain of salt, or maybe the fact that the kitchen was having an off night. But at least I can check this place off my list of places-to-go.