Dinner at (the new) Ten Tables.

I’d been wanting to check out the new Ten Tables in Cambridge for a while.  I had visited the original Jamaica Plain restaurant at the end of the summer; the memory of that meal had stayed with me over the fall and winter, so when Keith suggested trying the recently-opened Harvard Square spot for dinner I immediately made a reservation.

Ten Tables, 1I started with the spring sorrel velouté with bacon, crème fraîche and a sprinkling of chives.  I chose the dish because I specifically wanted to experience the soup’s texture; a traditional velouté is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine, and its name comes from the word for “velvety” — the perfect adjective to describe each spoonful’s mouthfeel.  Honestly, I think I have a pretty decent vocabulary, and still I can’t come up with a better word.  Flavor-wise, the smoky bacon and sweet, tangy sorrel were a fantastic combination, and the rich, slightly sour crème fraîche added even more lusciousness to every slurp.

Ten Tables, 2The follow-up to my starter was an adobo-rubbed bavette steak, frites and a ramp-infused aïoli.  When asked, I had requested that the meat be brought to medium-rare, which it was; in retrospect, I should have said something like, “Whatever the chef thinks is best.”   Don’t get me wrong — my steak was perfectly cooked, but the cut did not lend well for medium-rare.  Each bite was a challenge to chew, and its squishy texture made it difficult to cut… which was all too bad because it tasted wonderful.  We all know I’m a heat-baby, but the spice rub here balanced intensity and elegance exactly like The Tightrope Walker (which I saw in Chicago earlier this year).

Ten Tables, 3As soon as I spotted the chocolate terrine with sea salt and Thai basil ice cream on the menu, I knew I had to have it.  The terrine’s texture and taste were both reminiscent of an ultra-dense mousse — which made me incredibly happy, as chocolate mousse just might be my all-time favorite dessert.  Chewing was completely unnecessary, as each concentrated, chocolatey mouthful slowly melted on my tongue.

The ice cream was an utter surprise, oozing a refreshing licorice fragrance.  Normally I back away from all things anise, but this cold globe was the exception to the rule.  This I want to eat directly from the carton, in front of the open freezer, at three o’clock in the morning.  It was that good.

You might have noticed that I didn’t mark each course’s cost with its description; that’s because Ten Tables Cambridge runs a special on Sunday nights, the best evenings to stop by.  For $38.00, you can pick an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert from the menu.  Not a bad deal at all, particulary for food of this caliber.  After all, the restaurant is located in the basement space recently vacated by the old Craigie Street Bistro (now Craigie on Main on the fringes of Central Square), giving it some pretty big culinary shoes to fill, something I think it does excellently.

Ten Tables
5 Craigie Circle
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
617.576.5444
tentables.net

Ten Tables on Urbanspoon

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Back in Town.

Friends, I am exhausted.  During a vacation, I normally like to make sure I’ve not only time to explore a new place but also that I’ve set aside an hour or two to take off my shoes and relax. An ideal schedule for me would be something like a semi-early start with a nice breakfast, followed by checking out an interesting museum exhibit, sitting down to a three o’clock lunch and walking around a picturesque neighborhood; as the day winds down, I love chilling out with a drink before heading out for a late dinner.

This, however, was not a kick-back trip.  Practically the only minutes Keith and I had off of our feet were those that found us riding the El or sitting down before a plate of food — otherwise it was all hustle hustle hustle before falling into bed each night and waking up feeling only partially restored.  Regardless, I had an absolute boatload of fun.  I’ll write more specifically on certain aspects of it, but for now, here’s a highlight reel of sorts:

hot-dougs-avecThursday
Arrived at O’Hare before ten in the morning, tired but excited,  so after a quick Starbucks detour at the baggage claim* (skinny vanilla latte for me, skim chai for Keith), we grabbed a taxi to our hotel on the Gold Coast to check in before flagging another taxi for the ride across the city to Hot Doug’s.  Afterwards we wandered around the area for a bit before sliding into fourth taxi of the day (the first was from our apartment to Logan at 5.30 AM, EST) for a ride to the Water Tower and a chilly walk up and down the Magnificent Mile.  Stopped in Borders to pick up a Frommer’s Guide and take a break from the cold; at some points, I couldn’t feel my face.  My absolute favorite building was the one that houses Bottega Veneta at 800 North Michigan, a charming gem absolutely dwarfed by the more modern Park Hyatt.  Walked back to our hotel, ducking into Barney’s and Jake when we felt too cold.  Later, we met up with Keith’s old friend Dave for a drink at the Hotel Burnham‘s Atwood Café before the three of us flagged a taxi (number five — luckily Chicago cabs are cheap) to take us to Avec in the West Loop.

millenium-park-2Friday
Overslept, but only in the sense that I got up, took a shower, then got back into bed for another two hours.  Does that count as oversleeping?  Regardless, we got off to a late start, only having time to poke around Millenium Park before hailing the first taxi of the day to ferry us to Blackbird for our one o’clock lunch reservations.  Rode the Green Line to Adams/Wabash, the stop for the Art Institute.  We didn’t get tickets to the Munch exhibit but I was excited to see Ivan Albright‘s That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), which is creepy and sad and evocative and thought-provoking.  Left the musum at exactly closing time, walked across the BP Bridge and along Lake Michigan to Navy Pier — which should be renamed McDonald’s Pier, as everything in sight seemed to be emblazoned with the golden arch logo.  Taxi number two back to the hotel; hung out before dinner at Alinea.  We took the El to North/Clybourn and walked from there to 1723 North Halsted, but afterwards had a taxi called for us; it was almost one AM.

chicago-riverSaturday
Wanted to sleep in but couldn’t — we had prepaid for tickets to take an eleven o’clock tour with the Architecture Foundation (though when we arrived at 224 South Michigan no one even checked).  Traveled amongst the insanity and congestion of Saint Patrick’s Day while making our way downtown.  Didn’t see the river actually get dyed green but saw the end results while we walked with the tour, squinting up at Art Deco buildings.  Avoided stepping into green-tinted vomit.  More walking to the North Wells location of Gino’s East, Dave’s recommendation for deep dish pizza.  Didn’t realize deep dish takes forty-five minutes to make so afterwards hailed a cab to bring us to the Metra, one of the few ways to get to Hyde Park and Frank Lloyd Wright‘s Robie House; had more prepaid tickets for a tour, as well as plans to meet up with my friend Lara, a Ph.D student at the University of Chicago.  After the tour she took us around campus, stopping at the Oriental Institute and Hallowed Grounds, before heading to Hopleaf for a pre-dinner beer (the bartender suggested the Goose Island Matilda and I’m here to tell you it was fantastic) and then over to The Publican for the meal itself.

the-lake-2Sunday
Wake up for brunch at Bistrot Zinc with Dave, his wife Isobel and their daughter Paloma, who just might be the most laid-back, Zen baby in the entire world.  Walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo; the weather had gotten considerably warmer and the ice was audibly thawing.  Heard two lions roar, an incredibly impressive sound, and a jaguar, um, mark his territory (if you get my drift), much to the childrens’ combined delight and disgust.  Dog watched outside the zoo before walking through Old Town to Isobel’s dining recommendation, Adobo Grill.  It was probably our earliest dinner of the year at five o’clock but within a few minutes the restaurant was packed so our timing was perfect.  Dogwatched some more from our seat next to the windows.  Realized haven’t taken a taxi all day.  Walked back to the hotel and packed.

Total number of taxis taken during trip: 9 (including taxi to O’Hare and from Logan on Monday)

* Generally, I like to travel with carry-ons only but since Alinea requests that men wear jackets, we had to not only check Keith’s suit but also pay the additional fee to do so.