Ten Tables Provincetown
133 Bradford Street, Provincetown, MA
I really wanted to like this place. I had heard from a dear friend that the food was wonderful, service great and the surroundings attractive. With things like fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits on the menu this southern boy wasn't going to miss going here. We had some difficulty in the past with reservations being “lost” (see my notes in my review of The Red Inn) which had caused me to write to the owner and let her know that not only myself but the person who had recommended the place had reservation issues. I never received even an acknowledgement of the letter but they have since aligned themselves with a system like OpenTable.com to deal with their reservation taking. That being said we did decide to go anyway.
The four of us arrived at 6:30pm on a Sunday night and were not “taken” with the place from the start. The entrance to the restaurant is on the back of the building and the brick walkway, lined with dead plants and dead leaves and had no indicator of where we were supposed to go. A kitchen person in a soiled apron who had popped out of the kitchen door for a smoke pointed out where we were to go.
Once inside we were shown into a chic dining room painted in my favorite color for a room; paper-bag brown. The tables were topped with white linen and brown craft paper. Also nice looking. The dog-eared menus were presented to us on clipboards and we were asked about drinks while looking at the menus. They were offering an interesting cocktail called the TTPT Star: Orange Vodka, Fresh Squeezed White Grapefruit Juice, Black Peppercorns, Muddled Ginger & Star Anise. Not being a fan of star anise I only tasted this drink and I found it to be delicious. The black pepper was a very interesting taste with the grapefruit in the background and the anise was just a backnote. Very nice. As I was the designated driver I decided on ordering a “girlie” drink that would not get me into trouble after a large meal. I ordered a Bacardi Cocktail, a classic that every bartender should know how to make and if not the recipe is on the back of every Bacardi bottle. The snarky waiter asked me (not politely) if that is “a real cocktail”? After being asked “Do you know what's in it?” and giving him the recipe myself and being told that lemon bar mix is not offered at Ten Tables he suggested that fresh lemon juice is available. Without going into too much more detail (there's more?) I did end up with a perfectly reasonable Bacardi Cocktail. Rolls were presented at this point which were of an excellent quality but were refrigerator cold and served with (seriously) 3 tablespoons of sweet butter that was seasoned with honey and cayenne pepper. The butter was great but definitely not enough for four people and the damned rolls were ice cold!!
Now to dinner. I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with Caper Aioli & Pickled Red Jalapenos ($10) for a starter. I will say that this dish was absolutely delicious. The coating on the tomatoes was light and crunchy. The tomatoes were sitting on a bit of the aioli and capers were sprinkled around the plate with thin slices of the pickled red jalapenos scattered on top of the dish. Once again I loved this dish. My companion had Braised Pork Cheeks with Marinated Cherry Tomatoes & Truffle Oil ($13). This was three teaspoon-sized pieces of braised pork in a 14-inch plate with a few marinated tomatoes which was consumed in three small bites. My friend said that the starter was tasty but was woefully small. Another companion had the Cucumber Gazpacho with Apples & Almonds ($10) that was described as very tasty and nicely chilled but nothing extraordinary. Finally our “fourth” had the Ten Tables' Charcuterie ($15) which was a selection of house-cured meats and smoked bluefish pate that was exceptionally delicious. She said that everything on the plate (a substantial portion) was delicious but that the toasts served with the plate were stale.
Before we get to the entrees I must say something about the ambiance. The view out of our window seat was of the brick walkway that we had traversed and of a “hot box” device used to transport food. On top of the hot box was a dirty mop head. By the time our entrees arrived, the room we were in was so dark that one of the other diners in the room had switched on a flashlight so that they could see the menu. Now I am a big fan of low lighting but really... if your guests must use a flashlight to read the menu the room is too damned dark!
For entrees, Ms. Braised Pork Cheeks ordered Shrimp & Anson Mills Grits with Hazelnut Romesco & Salsa Verde ($25) which was described as delicious. The Romesco sauce was a nice accompaniment to the creamy grits but the complaint was that the shrimp were ridiculously small for a $25 price tag. I mean... $25 for 5 small shrimp and some cornmeal and red pepper sauce?? Mr. Cucumber Gazpacho ordered Grilled Pork Loin with Braised Pork Shank, Red Island Sea Peas & Pickled Red Onions ($24). He said the pork was perfectly cooked and tasty but that the sea peas and red onion really did nothing for the dish. Ms.Charcuterie plate and I both had Oven Roasted Cod with Melted Vidalia Onions, Grilled Escarole & Nectarine Mostarda ($26). The cod was a “tail-end” cut that was literally no more than 6-inches long. When I cooked professionally we would have used that piece for stock or for fish chowder. The cod had no flavor on its own, instead relying on the nectarine mostarda (absolutely delicious) to give it “something”. The so-called melted onions were crunchy to the tooth and the variety of onion they used had little sweetness that would have been present in this slightly cooked preparation. Instead they had a little bit of a raw onion finish that was not especially tasty. The escarole had a slightly charred flavor that was great but the ribs of the escarole were left on and were quite difficult to chew.
I won't bore you with dessert except to say that the Slow Roasted Half Peach with Rosemary Crumble & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (peach mealy, crumble cold), "Arroz con Leche" with Pomegranate & Marcona Almonds (too much cardamom, I think it was, and the nuts were like shards), and Fromage Blanc Cheesecake with Farm Berries (like panacotta rather than cheescake) were all not great. Add to that weak and thin espresso and you have the fixin's of a simply awful experience at a restaurant that has had great press but at least on this occasion was a huge disappointment. After the reservation experiences, the snarky service and the hit-or-miss food I would say “pass” on this place. There are so many better restaurants in Provincetown.