In a marathon week of eating, Viv reluctantly joined me for an invited tasting at Ten Ten Tapas. This was the 6th tasting in 7 days. Okay, that is not a typical week for me, but Viv had to say uncle after just 2 events earlier in the week. Well, this was not going to get any better as we were treated to practically the whole menu, albeit some dishes in smaller portions. I definitely think we have #firstworldproblems when we are complaining about too much food.
Even before we got to the food, it was quite obvious that the location of the restaurant on Beach Ave is its best asset. I suppose it could be a blessing and a curse at the same time due to not being visible from street level, yet at the same time, having a wonderful water view. We ended up getting a pitcher of Sangria to start which was a refreshing and light. The first item to arrive was the Duo of Hummus and Guacamole with pita bread. We thought the hummus was fantastic with a smooth texture (with just a few bits of texture) and a considerable garlic hit. Hence, there was a sharpness with the finish. The generous drizzle of EVOO didn't hurt either. As for the guacamole, it was fresh and smooth, but the flavours were a bit flat. More lime and possibly a bit more onion would've livened it up.
Interestingly plated as 2 separate piles on the plate was the Roasted Beet and Orange Salad. The beets were a little inconsistent texturally as some were just right (firm yet chewable) while a few were quite crunchy. In addition to a roasted essence, there was a considerable "sweet beet" taste. The splash of balsamic was the necessary acidic component. The accompanying orange salad was pretty typical with a sweet slant. Next up was the Quinoa Salad with sweet peppers, onions, jalapeno, cilantro and sweet corn. We found the quinoa to have the right firm texture, yet the flavours were not really apparent. A bit more acidity in the form of lemon would've really brought it to life. However, the pop from the sweet corn was welcomed as well as the texture.
Presented on a long plate, we sampled the Crostini Platter consisting 2 each of the Bruschetta, Avocado & Blue Cheese and Smoked Salmon & Gruyere. This was an enjoyable offering with crisp crostinis and a herbal hit from a smear of pesto. My favourite was the avocado & blue cheese as the sharpness helped bring flavour to an otherwise mild-tasting ripe avocado. The salmon & gruyere benefited from the natural flavours of both ingredients which was smoky and cheesy. The bruschetta was really bright and fresh but could've really used some acidity. *Please note that the following dishes were only sample sizes only* Now to some intentionally smaller dishes (so we could sample more) beginning with the Pipita Shrimp & Scallops. These were pan-seared with crushed pumpkin seeds and dressed with citrus vinaigrette & balsamic reduction accompanied by strawberry chutney. As for the seafood, they were properly prepared where the shrimp had a firm snap while the scallops were buttery soft. However, the pumpkin seeds could not provide the crispy texture we were looking for. Despite being dark and intimidating, the balsamic reduction did not overwhelm while the citrus vinaigrette was very light.
Then something scary arrived being the Wasabi Shumai. Being Chinese, it is very hard to eat anything Dim Sum without being critical. Okay, the positives first - when they said wasabi, they weren't kidding. One bite and whoomp there it was, a big hit of eye-watering wasabi. That I liked. The texture... not so much. I found it too soft and even with the crunchy water chestnuts, it needed more meatiness. Continuing on with the international theme of the meal, we were served the Moroccan Roasted Chicken which was a slow roasted free range breast in a Moroccan Romesco sauce. At this point, I was wondering why every dish had a splash of balsamic reduction. Hey, I love the reduction, but every plate? I digress. As for the chicken, it was sufficiently moist for free-range. Flavour-wise, it was interesting with a tumeric and coriander hit. Not very Romesco-ish, but not bad nonetheless.
Up next was the Stuffed Organic Beef Meatballs with Emmental cheese accompanied by a fennel cinnamon onion chutney and red pepper coulis. I found the meatballs to be on the softer side with only the slightest meat texture. Despite the colour, the red pepper coulis was very mild with only the slightest spice. I could've sworn that there was a touch of srirracha in there, but Viv didn't think so. As for the chutney, it was good except there was too much cinnamon. And there was that balsamic reduction again! Well, the side of Herb & Balsamic Button Mushrooms had it too, but only in the cooking process. I liked this dish as there was no absence of flavour in terms of sweet balsamic and the presence of thyme and oregano. Viv thought they should've been left whole though. The side of Garlic Herb Mash Potatoes was pretty typical being buttery with some bits. It was mild though and could've benefited from some more garlic. Our last side was the Broccolini Almondine and it was pretty good. I found the broccolini retained a crunch while cooked all-the-way-through. The roasted almonds were aromatic and there was just enough seasoning.
If you thought this was the end, well no it wasn't. We were presented next with the Pan-Seared Crab Cakes served with Harissa mayo and pineapple tomato salsa. The crab cakes were lightly crisp on the outside with a nice hit of lemon. However, the crab itself wasn't exactly fluffy. Not sure if it was either overcooked or that they didn't use fresh crab. This was somewhat alleviated by the slightly spicy harissa mayo. One dish we could've done without was the Stuffed Portabellini Mushrooms. These were stuffed with spinach, jalapenos, red onion and blue cheese finished by a basil vinaigrette. We felt the wonderful mushrooms were completely overwhelmed and overshadowed by the sharp blue cheese and spicy jalapenos. More mild ingredients were needed in this case.
Finally arriving at dessert, we had a duo of Lychee Sorbet and Tiramisu Gelato. Since this was sourced from Mario's, it was pretty predictable. We did like the lychee sorbet though. They did make their Raspberry Cheesecake in-house though and it was not bad (currently not made in-house). I did get a few small bits of cream cheese, but that didn't make or break the dish. It was creamy with a texture in-between NY-style and mousse. There was a good amount of raspberry flavour without too much sugar added. As for the crust, it was firm and not fatty. For the massive amount of food we were served, most were not bad with some that needed more thought. I give the chef credit for experimenting with different flavour combinations.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*
- Excellent location, especially when the sun is shining
- Nice dining space
- Chef isn't afraid of playing with flavours
- When playing with flavour combinations, unintended results happen
- As with any tapas joint, final bill could get up there