Restaurant Reviews

[by Naveen]

How do I describe my recent experience at Ten Tables?

Devra First wrote an elaborate valentine to the Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. It begins:
"This is a valentine. Ten Tables, I have a thing for you. Always have, hopefully always will. I know I'm not alone in that - you have many suitors, and I have to fight for my fraction of your attention...."
Yelp gave it four out of five stars. The chocolate terrine with thai basil ice cream, which I had for dessert, got rave reviews. I have mixed feeling about Yelp, partially inspired by humorous anecdotes from the linecook podcast about reviews appearing for Nopalito before it opens. However, the eccentricities and personal manifestos of the crowd often average out to a useful tool.

AA Gills, the Food Critic for the Times Online, has an instantly recognizable style. A recent (June 14) review beings with a vivid description of strawberry pudding: "The pudding looked so good, a shining plum-puce breast of sticky sweet soft sodden bread and ripe fruit." This later leads into a tirade against processed fruit:
"It isn’t only strawberries; we’re eating less unprocessed or melanged fruit altogether. Orange sales have plummeted. I expect plum sales are plummeting. We drink cartons of boiled fruit juice, but we can’t be bothered to peel one. When was the last time you ate a grape with a pip in it? We eat bits of fruit in salads and in yoghurt and shoved through juicers. The death of soft fruit has nothing to do with organics or green farming. It’s down to packaging and distribution. It’s not that the fruit’s grown badly, it’s just the wrong varieties grown for the wrong reasons. "
He gives a concise summary at the end, criticizing this Francophilic retaurants tapas approach: "The food is mostly well-sourced compilations, but it should trust itself to be a bistro, and drop the snack attack concept." I can see why Anthony Bourdain is a fan of his writing, but I can also see how it's not for everyone. That's why it's great.

The salad/pasta/dessert trio is an over-worn cliche for me. I prefer restaurants with open kitchens, background techno music, and a conversational wait-staff. The food itself was a couple levels more refined than anything I could achieve in my own kitchen. The dessert did make me seriously consider buying an ice cream maker. I like restaurants that give me a story to tell: simply "really good food" is not compelling. This all tells you more about me than the restaurant. If any of you have gone to Ten Tables, I would love to hear your impressions. On a related note, I'm also on the lookout for recommendations for new restaurant critics.

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