i've been dying to go to ten tables for a long time, but it's never quite worked out. we're in cambridge, so it's a bit of a hike to get to jp, especially when we have so many nearby faves. so we were stoked to find out that they were opening their cambridge location, and went to check it out on saturday. the food was excellent but the environment was not. i'm sure weekday dining would mitigate some of our complaints, but unfortunately the mr. works one of those delightful 7am-8pm kind of jobs, so we're not much for weeknight restaurant going. here's how our night went.
when we got there there were about 10 people hanging out in the front area, some having drinks, some just standing around right in front of the coatrack and front door. we stood by the host stand for a good 5 minutes, at least, before we were even acknowledged by the manager. i know the place is small, but he was very harried and while i sympathize having worked front of house, all we wanted was to be acknowledged with eye contact when we first walked in, and reassured that someone had noticed us. we checked in finally (At least 15 min after our res) and loitered around another 15 minutes or so until we were seated in the back room. the place had the feeling of being an "it" place to dine, if that makes sense, and was nothing like the laid back, good food, homey atmosphere that i'd expected hearing the jp location described. we're not fancy restaurant people, preferring smaller cambridge places to restaurants like no9 park, for example, so i was a little surprised by the vibe. it was warm and *extremely* loud (like conversation was a chore) in there, but we were still looking forward to our meal.
i had: winter greens salad (incredible) and roast chicken with a cabbage-white bean-smoked bacon preparation that reminded me of a cassoulet. the chicken was plentiful and delicious, with a perfectly crispy, salty skin and a nice ratio of light to dark meat. he had: steak tartare (yay for pickled honshimenji) and boudin blanc, which was out of this world. they both made excellent leftovers. i drank a glass of rioja and a glass of a cotes du rhone syrah blend (both were really nice); he had the lillet-tarragon cocktail and a merlot blend (i think bordeaux), they were mediocre. our desserts were divine, and i was happy to have taken advice from previous posts and order the chocolate dessert with thai basil ice cream, and the sticky toffee pudding. we have trouble with desserts at many restaurants (they never seem to match up to a great meal) but this did not disappoint.
so i guess, the food was very great, and the place was deservedly packed. but the level of crowdedness, extreme noise, and "scene"iness, like everyone was dressed up for destination dining and the place had a real "aren't we cool and french" feel, turned us off. a comparison is oleana, which we love and is often crowded but we never feel ignored or weird, like we've walked into a bunch of special occasion dinners wearing our daytime clothes. and once we sit down there it feels intimate, but we didn't get that feel at ten tables. i want to try the jp location now and see how it feels, because i was disappointed not to have found a new fave on sat.
if you have a different impression of the restaurant, or insight, i'd love to hear it!