Monday, June 11, 2012

Steak and Sushi Lovers Will Find Prime Dining at Ten

No pun intended, but it’s rare nowadays to find a steakhouse that lives up to its lofty prices and expectations. Ten Prime Steak and Sushi has long been considered one of Providence’s premier steakhouses. Conveniently located directly off of I-95 (and with equally convenient complimentary valet parking), Ten is a refreshing alternative for carnivores seeking something different from what has become an undistinguishable list of upscale chain steakhouses such as Ruth Chris, Smith & Wollensky, Capital Grille, and Morton’s. Was Ten’s food as prime as its location and hip setting?

Ten’s ambience is indeed trendy, yet completely unpretentious. A few tables towards the front of the restaurant reside next to a large open-glass window that enables customers to view Pine Street and McFadden’s pub across the way, all while dining under a funky chandelier. A long, stylish bar to the left is filled with young, stylish people. A sculpture of a male and female torso playfully adorns the wall, while a fish tank appears towards the back. As the evening wears on, club music blares loudly and makes for more difficult conversation. If you’re seeking a subdued atmosphere askin to Morton’s, look elsewhere. For an evening of upscale fun, however, Ten is the place to be.

Appetizers sounded highly promising, particularly an East Meets West 8-piece sushi special (a bargain at $14.99) that came highly recommended by our server and consisted of spicy tuna, salmon, filet mignon tartare, cucumber, spicy mayo and sriracha sauce. The sushi was mouthwateringly tender and packed a nice touch of heat, while the cucumber provided a cool, crunchy contrast. A heaping bowl of parmesan truffle frites ($5.99), however, were the evening’s glaring disappointment. The fries were limp, lacked crunch, and came out lukewarm. Sadly, not even a side of house-made spicy ketsup would be able to save the dish.

Entrees were relatively solid. My TEN filet ($41.99), a house specialty, was a tad overcooked for my liking (it was closer to medium well than medium rare) and the accompanying foie gras – whose buttery flavor was supposed to be the piece de resistance of the dish – was decent enough but did little to accentuate the meat’s flavor, while a handful of asparagus tips idly sat on the plate. A Wagyu Flat Iron steak ($41.99), however, is absolute heaven served on a plate. What this slightly fatty, more marbled cut of steak lacks in size, it more than accounts for in its rich, buttery flavor. Be prepared, however, to order a side dish with your steaks, which typically come without any accoutrements.

Desserts are pleasing, but not superb. A chocolate lava cake ($9.99) is decadent and rich, but lags behind the moist, magnificent version I’d recently sampled at Boston’s Grotto due to its drier texture. A bananas foster bread pudding (also $9.99) evoked raves across the table, but I found the flambed top layer more charred and hard than bruleed and slightly crisped, while the bread pudding itself was a touch drier than I would have preferred.

Service was commendable, but there were noticeable flaws. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable of the menu and rather pleasant. While friends sitting across from us received their salads minutes before, however, we needed to remind our waiter about that terrific sushi plate that had yet to arrive. “Oh, I must have forgotten about that, with all of the other orders. Thanks very much for reminding me,” he apologized, flashing a genuine smile. Also, dipping sauces for the steaks arrive only after three-quarters of the meat is devoured.

Given Ten’s relatively pricey menu, particularly its steaks, cocktails are surprisingly well priced and expertly prepared. Each selection comes in a narrow, tall glass for show. Ten’s classic mojito has frequently been voted best in Rhode Island, and for good reason. It’s ultra-refreshing and dazzling. The drink is made with loads of crushed ice (mucho helado, as Ten advertises on its menu) that somehow manages to stay packed together for long periods of time, while there is a generous pouring of Bacardi Superior and loads of muddled mint and lime.

All cocktails are around $10, an uninspiring handful of draught and bottled beers come in around $5, a trio of sake selections between $5-10, along with various cognacs, grappa, bourbons, scotch, and tequila ($7-15). Ten’s wine list is extensive and its proprietary bottles can be extremely pricey, but a few moderately priced reds (such as the Putno Final Reserva Malbec, $40) and whites (Raymond Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, $41) can be had for under $50. My advice? Stick with those irresistibly addictive mojitos.

Ten has several positive attributes in its favor that impressed Paul’s Palate. With its at-times high prices for steaks (not much cheaper than any Boston steakhouses), along with enjoyable but not exceptional service and food, an eight out of ten rating feels like just the right flavor for Ten Prime Steak and Sushi.

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