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ten tables cambridge...unimpressed

i've been dying to go to ten tables for a long time, but it's never quite worked out. we're in cambridge, so it's a bit of a hike to get to jp, especially when we have so many nearby faves. so we were stoked to find out that they were opening their cambridge location, and went to check it out on saturday. the food was excellent but the environment was not. i'm sure weekday dining would mitigate some of our complaints, but unfortunately the mr. works one of those delightful 7am-8pm kind of jobs, so we're not much for weeknight restaurant going. here's how our night went.

when we got there there were about 10 people hanging out in the front area, some having drinks, some just standing around right in front of the coatrack and front door. we stood by the host stand for a good 5 minutes, at least, before we were even acknowledged by the manager. i know the place is small, but he was very harried and while i sympathize having worked front of house, all we wanted was to be acknowledged with eye contact when we first walked in, and reassured that someone had noticed us. we checked in finally (At least 15 min after our res) and loitered around another 15 minutes or so until we were seated in the back room. the place had the feeling of being an "it" place to dine, if that makes sense, and was nothing like the laid back, good food, homey atmosphere that i'd expected hearing the jp location described. we're not fancy restaurant people, preferring smaller cambridge places to restaurants like no9 park, for example, so i was a little surprised by the vibe. it was warm and *extremely* loud (like conversation was a chore) in there, but we were still looking forward to our meal.

i had: winter greens salad (incredible) and roast chicken with a cabbage-white bean-smoked bacon preparation that reminded me of a cassoulet. the chicken was plentiful and delicious, with a perfectly crispy, salty skin and a nice ratio of light to dark meat. he had: steak tartare (yay for pickled honshimenji) and boudin blanc, which was out of this world. they both made excellent leftovers. i drank a glass of rioja and a glass of a cotes du rhone syrah blend (both were really nice); he had the lillet-tarragon cocktail and a merlot blend (i think bordeaux), they were mediocre. our desserts were divine, and i was happy to have taken advice from previous posts and order the chocolate dessert with thai basil ice cream, and the sticky toffee pudding. we have trouble with desserts at many restaurants (they never seem to match up to a great meal) but this did not disappoint.

so i guess, the food was very great, and the place was deservedly packed. but the level of crowdedness, extreme noise, and "scene"iness, like everyone was dressed up for destination dining and the place had a real "aren't we cool and french" feel, turned us off. a comparison is oleana, which we love and is often crowded but we never feel ignored or weird, like we've walked into a bunch of special occasion dinners wearing our daytime clothes. and once we sit down there it feels intimate, but we didn't get that feel at ten tables. i want to try the jp location now and see how it feels, because i was disappointed not to have found a new fave on sat.

if you have a different impression of the restaurant, or insight, i'd love to hear it!

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  1. "Unimpressed" sounds a bit overstated, in light of the fact that you really enjoyed the food?

    The attitude of the place may be expected since it is still very much in the honeymoon stage, you know what I mean? Plus - geez - saturday night - whaddaya expect?

    I am willing to bet that once the opening up crowds die down, the place will be less of about "it." There may also be a fundamental limitation of the basement space - maybe they can install some dampeners - your complaint about temperature and noise has been repeated on another thread - only time will tell.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob Dobalina

      yeah, i hope so on all counts...we'll definitely go back because those all seem reasonable assumptions. i guess, the first impression and stressful noise/environment were so disheartening that by the time we got to the excellent food we were, as mr put it, "exhausted". so i still stand by "unimpressed", but i hold out hope to be impressed sometime in the future.

      1. re: dianalim

        I get ya now with the "exhausted" comment - there are always ear plugs! ;)

    2. I had the exact same experience upon arriving, and truly I was put off. Similarly, there was a lot of noise, a lot of confusion, and some trouble getting the attention of our server. All of this I attribute to first week opening pains (I went the first Friday night it was open), although I will readily agree it was disruptive enough to take away from the experience. The food was delicious - we had some of the same dishes. I really love the place and do not agree that there is a "aren't we cool and French" feel. Krista is walking around very amiably and David Punch was also in the dining room. Hardly snobbish French. I will want to go back many times. My husband, unfortunately not as patient as I, was too unhappy with the service to put it on the list of places to get back to. So I will go with friends - and I believe I will be very happy there. I wish them the best and hope the early-stage service and timing issues work out because the food is surely worth it.

      1. I can't wait to try it, but I will. Friends went on Friday night late (9:30 res) and they swooned about the food. A group of 4 shared 6 apps and one main plus dessert -- particular raves about duck confit with boudin, and the bitter greens salad. Krista and David worked the room and my pals enjoyed every bite. Friend said that the room is a little dark and hot, and she's not an atmosphere queen. I agree with Slim -- want to give it a little more shake-down time since I love the JP version so much. I'm biding my time to go check it out.

        1. We finally made it over to the new location of Ten Tables in Cambridge. It's actually more like 20 tables ... as the new venue has about twice the seating of the mother restaurant in Jamaica Plain, so the name is a bit of a misnomer.

          Housed in Cragie Street Bistro's old basement locale, as people have already said, the interior is pretty cozy (read: small) and dim. That's not necessarily bad, but I think they would have a hard time fitting in large parties. The noise level was quite high, but I got used to it.

          Getting parking was as easy as pie, though I could imagine it not being so easy if you don't score one of the restaurants four reserved spots, which we did. It appears as though most of the neighborhood is permit only parking. I guess we lucked out, because I have read bad things about parking in that area.

          The food we had was definitely delicious, though we tried not to stuff ourselves in order to save for dessert (we went on an independent cupcake quest). Between the four of us, our group had the Butter Lettuce Salad with local Hillman Farm Goat Cheese, Spicy Steak Tartare, Turkish Red Lentil Potage, Ten Table's Handcrafted Sausage and two orders of the Handcut Fettucini Cabornora with Native Parsnips, Peas and Pancetta (pics on our blog). Everything got rave reviews - the local cheese on the salad was fresh and creamy, the tartare had a great kick, the potage had great flavor and the fettucini was cooked just right. The portions seemed on the smaller side for the entrees. It filled me up just right, but I still definitely had room for dessert and I am not a huge eater. I can imagine that someone with a much larger appetite might actually leave a tad hungry.

          Though we did not try any of their desserts, we'll definitely go back to try them out as the combinations looked totally appealing, particularly the Chocolate Terrine with Sea Salt and Thai Basil Ice Cream. I absolutely love the combo of sweet and salty, so I am sure I would love that dessert. Next stop will be their JP location, but for that particular evening, the Cambridge location was more convenient.

          www.thevitullos.blogspot.com

          1. I had a very solid first impression of the place; pretty much all of the original's virtues with twice the seating. I think it's the nicest looking version yet of a difficult interior. Excellent service. Parking is still a pain, but it's only about a 12-minute walk from the T.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            1 Reply
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              In terms of parking, I used to check out the lot, and if full go down Craigie st away from Harvard Sq. At the end of Craigie (not the end near the restauant) there is a church that has non-resident parking on the street in front and on the side. I always found parking there. This is when it was Craigie, haven't been to Ten Tables yet, ut am looking forward to it!

            2. Has anyone been to the JP location recently? I'm wondering if it is suffering since Cambridge opened.

              2 Replies
              1. re: bostonbroad

                I understand that David Punch is splitting his time between the two in hopes of countering this exact problem.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  I had heard that, too. I was just hoping someone could testify to whether or not that plan is actually working. I get all sort of promotional emails for the Cambridge locale, but the JP locale doesn't seem to be getting much love.