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.
I 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.
The 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).
As 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.
5 Craigie Circle
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138