Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Five thoughts about Ten Tables

We checked out the new Ten Tables in Cambridge this weekend. (Sadly, the lighting was too atmospheric for decent photos, so you'll have to make do with words.) Here are a few observations:

They like cream. A lot.
Okay, I ordered the vélouté of fennel to start, so duh, cream. The Boy's jamon serrano-wrapped sea bass was served in a puddle of cream sauce. And the desserts were all dairy-enhanced in some way: with Thai-basil ice cream, with rum ice cream, with muscat sabayon (eggs count as dairy, right?). Not that cream is bad, you understand; it just seemed there were few light, fresh options. Maybe this is just Ten Tables' winter menu and they'll lighten it up for spring.

It's loud.
Was Craigie loud? I don't remember. But at Ten Tables, at least on Sunday night, we had to lean across the table to talk each other.

On the other hand, this did allow us to hear the fabulous exchange at the next table: a couple, possibly on a first date, with the guy doing 90% of the talking. At one point, during a soliloquy on his dating history, he said, "I've been thinking about trying"

A little too quickly, the woman responded, "Oh, you totally should."

There was a pause, and then the guy said, "Oh …" And above the noise, you heard his romantic hopes die.

Somebody knows sausage.
It's rare to find sausage in good restaurants at all; Ten Tables' menu had two (two!) choices. I did consider getting both the merguez appetizer and the boudin blanc main, but decided that would probably be Wrong (sigh) so just went with the latter.

It was light and delicate—almost fluffy. It came with duck breast with fantastically crispy skin, lentils in a light mustard (and cream) sauce, and thin matchsticks of apple that made for a perfect foil of crunch and sweetness.

If you go and there's sausage on the menu, you should get it, whatever it is.

The waitstaff needs to read the wine list.
We started with wine; I asked for the Crémant de Bourgogne, one of two sparkling wines by the glass on the list. Our waiter (who was otherwise lovely) disappeared and came back with The Boy's order. And disappeared again.

And then he came back and asked me, "Which wine did you want?" And disappeared again. And came back and said, "That's only available by the bottle." Not until I pointed it out on the menu ("That one, the second wine on the page") did he figure it out. And by then I'd finished my appetizer.

Comparisons to Craigie Street are unavoidable.
Of the wine mix-up, The Boy observed, "That would never have happened at Craigie." Which is true: those guys know their bottles. And it's hard, in general, not to look around Ten Tables and remember what came before. There's only so much you can change in a low, narrow, basement space.

Ten Tables has done some painting, and the area inside the door where you'd wait has been legitimized as a table for four. The French poster art is replaced with a chalkboard of—I think—dessert options (low lighting made it hard to read).

But there's still a coat rack in the foyer, and the menu still comes on a clipboard, and you still have to dodge servers to get to the restrooms.

And the food is still good. I don't want to say it's better than Craigie—I'll need some repeat visits and comparisons before coming to any conclusions—but the dishes are creative and the ingredients are fresh.

Any resto going into that spot would have big shoes to fill; Craigie wasn't just a high-end place, but also a neighborhood favorite for that part of Cambridge. Ten Tables may have to walk around in those shoes a little, but I think they'll fit quite comfortably.

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Blogger Amy said...

Love the dating story! Reminds me of something that happened to a blonde friend of mine. She was on a first date. They're talking and things are going okay. Then the guy says, "I'm really into Asian women. They're totally hot." She says, "Well, I'm not remotely Asian." He says, "Yeah?" Check please.

9:44 AM  

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