Restaurant of the Week: Ten 01
Pearl pleaser cooks things up a notch
As the new year is a time of hope and plans for change, it's a good time to revisit Ten 01, a restaurant that last year seemed mired in straits about as bleak as Britney Spears'.
A new chef, a new menu and an invitation to cook at the James Beard House in New York next month appear to have turned things around at this two-level Pearl District restaurant, which now has the pleasant, contented buzz of a reliable high-end establishment.
The many-windowed space remains chic and airy - though the awkwardly curtained-off entryway still stands as testimony to someone's 'oops, I forgot about the freezing cold air that will blow in the door.'
Visits under the old regime felt like shopping at WinCo - if you wanted something you might as well find it yourself. But at two recent meals it was apparent that the service had been dialed up several notches.
Here the pace of service is precisely keyed to match the diner's, whatever that happens to be.
A couple next to me one night actually took the waiter's name to send a note of compliments to the manager for his leisurely service.
Ours (we were dining with a tenuously sleeping baby) was appropriately brisk.
On another visit, our waiter was relaxed and helpful with menu suggestions - despite the fact that he was moments from going off-shift to become a father.
There's a festive, special-occasion feel to Ten 01, without the painfully quiet hush of Serious Gourmet Diners or the garish Los Angeles glitterrati that seem to be infecting the Pearl.
The menu shows the standard (by now) commitment to local, seasonal, etc., but there's also a more unexpected, lighthearted element. An appetizer of 'bacon and eggs' features two quarter-size quail eggs teetering on a pair of pork belly nuggets. The bar menu offers bacon-shallot tater tots.
A silky-smooth celery root soup is topped with a scattering of soft, pungent chanterelles, as well as a scoop of luscious foie gras mousse on a crisp baguette slice. In a beet salad, the cubes of pink and red beets are so tender and fine they're easily mistaken for fresh tuna.
Only a butter lettuce salad was disappointing. It didn't have the kick you'd expect from the description of the lemon-garlic dressing, Spanish anchovies and niçoise olives.
The entree section offers nothing for vegetarians (even the two fish dishes are flavored with chorizo and sautéed foie gras).
But for omnivores, the combinations work well. Scallops' natural sweetness is nicely tempered by the chorizo's zest, and both have a pleasingly chewy texture.
A generous half-chicken has a wonderfully, intensely chickeny sauce. It sat over a puddle of velvety Gorgonzola polenta.
For dessert, there's a curious butternut squash crème brûlée; a dish of churros, those sticklike convenience store doughnuts; and a delicious, crusty and gooey butterscotch chocolate brownie. It's served with sticky dulce de leche ice cream and caramel popcorn.
Popcorn on a brownie sundae might seem like gilding a lily, but Ten 01 deserves to celebrate moving into 2008. It should be a good year.
- Audrey Van Buskirk
1001 N.W. Couch St., 503-226-3463, lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; happy hour: 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; dinner: 6 p.m. to close, Monday-Saturday, dinner entrees $23-$36