TEN TEN – Restaurant Review
1010 Fleet Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
I often find myself in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor during the work week, which is an area teeming with new restaurants and store fronts. I most recently stumbled upon TEN TEN, an American Bistro, which is tucked back in the courtyard of the historic Bagby Building.
As soon as I walked into the building, I fell in love with it. I’m a sucker for exposed brick walls and reclaimed wood floors. I was welcomed by the hostess who sat me at the bar as I was dining alone. I was drawn to the bar immediately with its beautiful, lit marble counter top. The bartender greeted me warmly and handed me their Summer Stroll menu, which is a summer long extended happy hour that numerous restaurants participate in throughout Baltimore’s Harbor East and Fells Point neighborhoods. Food specials from 5-7 pm and $5 cocktails? Yes please!
I started off with a Bagby Back Nine, a cocktail consisting of their home made sweet tea vodka, fresh lemonade, and bitters. It was perfect for a hot summer evening. The bartender added a few large ice cubes and explained to me that bigger ice cubes melt slower so they don’t water down your drink as much. Genius. The drink tasted like an Arnold Palmer, sweet and strong, but not overwhelming.
As I was deciding what to have as an appetizer, I was drawn to the way the bartender was making her drinks. The way she was measuring everything out and mixing the ingredients was done in such an elegant manner, like a fine art. Ten Ten is known for its craft cocktails and now I know why. Also note that their drinks are made with carefully selected artisanal spirits, fresh juices, locally-grown herbs, and house-infused syrups. If I didn’t have to get up early the next morning, I would’ve indulged in more than one drink!
Since I couldn’t make up my mind, I chose two appetizers. I ordered the fried Brussels sprouts with chili vinaigrette and the steamed pork buns. The Brussels sprouts were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They were cooked to perfection. The dipping sauce had a definite Thai influence to it as I could taste the fish sauce and chili. The pork buns were made with pork belly, pickled vegetables, and cilantro and served on a wooden plate. I loved the combination of flavors although I thought the sauce was a bit too salty for my taste. The pork buns reminded me of the consistency of a Chinese cha siu bau, a bun filled with barbeque-flavored pork that is common if you ever go to dim sum.
As I was glancing through the dinner menu, I could see a definite French and Asian influence to the cuisine with a focus on food from local farms and purveyors. With two appetizers already in my belly, I decided on something light; the olive-oil poached cod served with fingerling-olive hash and piperade crumbled prosciutto. The cod was crispy on the outside and softer on the inside, which gave it such a great texture. However, I was expecting the cod to have more flavor. Some fresh thyme or oregano would’ve been a perfect touch and would’ve added that extra kick. The fresh black olives that came with the fish were necessary as they added some flavor to the otherwise bland dish. I’m not sure I would order that particular dish again as my taste buds just weren’t all that excited about it.
The bartender teased me with the dessert menu and I caved. Everything looked delicious, but my only vice is that 90% of the desserts had dairy in them. This poor lactose intolerant gal didn’t have many choices to choose from. I ultimately decided on raspberry rhubarb sorbet. It was exactly how I expected: sweet and refreshing, with a light lemony after taste. The sorbet was served with a soft, chewy sugar cookie, which gave the dish a nice contrast in texture.
Overall, I really enjoyed my evening at TEN TEN. My entire dining experience cost a very reasonable $50 and I left incredibly satisfied, but not stuffed. I will definitely be back, especially to try more of their delicious craft cocktails!