Sunday, July 13, 2008

Review by P: 10 Arts by Eric Ripert

We were married on July 14 one year ago. Since our anniversary falls on Bastille Day, we headed out for a Gallically themed evening of seeing the local production of Les Miserablès, to be preceded by dinner at 10 Arts, the newest restaurant from celebrity chef and noted toaster oven enthusiast Eric Ripert.

I can't say I know too much about Ripert's other restaurants, but I know they have a reputation for well-executed, medium-concept French cuisine – not anything that is going to blow your mind, but a step up from the steak-frites-and-crême-brulée bistros that seem to be sprouting up everywhere like champignons. (OK, no more gratuitous French for the rest of this post. I promise. I took Spanish in high school anyway.) Going in with this frame of mind, I think we were satisfied, though not thoroughly enough impressed to be planning a trip back anytime soon.

The restaurant is located in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, which is a magnificent space, but unfortunately lends that eating-in-a-hotel-lobby feel to the whole experience. This is definitely better than the eating-in-a-office-building-lobby feel of say, Rae, but still makes you think you're in town for a vacuum cleaner salesmen's convention rather than having a romantic evening out. Still, the space is tastefully appointed, with a nice bar, circular wine cellar in the center beneath the atrium's dome, and neat almost holographically-frosted glass panels that L. thought I spent way too much time talking about. We had pretty early reservations because of our tickets to the show, so it was still light out, which is unfortunate because I bet the whole deal is a lot more dramatic in the dark.

Oh, right – the food. For appetizers, L. got a warm goat cheese salad and I had tuna carpaccio. The salad was nice; though the dressing on the greens was a touch salty, the overall taste was light and bright, and the goat cheese was creamy and flavorful. My carpaccio was a disc of impossibly thin raw tuna (it looked more the color of salmon than tuna with the white plate showing through) dressed simply with lemon and a sprinkling of chives. Again, well done but nothing that will knock your socks off.

For the main course, I went with rabbit paillards served with arugula, peas and coarse mustard. The rabbit was thin and tender, though I really would have liked the breading to be crispier and a little less greasy. The peas were nice but more of them would have been appreciated. I'm a mustard fan so I dug the sauce, but L. is not, which is just fine because she ordered the bouillabaisse anyway. Its broth was delicious and quite rich, and the seafood itself included mussels, sea bass, and one of those shrimp that's so big you have to call it "prawn" or it will smack you with its tail.

We split a dessert, which was a jelly-roll type thing filled with peach mousse, served with tiny round peach nuggets and olive oil ice cream. Because it was our anniversary, they also gave us a plate with two each of strawberry macarons, fudgy chocolate triangles and blueberry gelées. I thought all of the desserts were awesome. The little macaron especially was just crazy light, to the point where it starts crumbling and deflating between your fingers on its way to your mouth. L. was not so enthusiastic about them, which is a surprise, since as you may have gathered from the rest of this blog, she does like her desserts.

Aside from the desserts, one thing I must give mad props to is the service. Everyone was exceptionally friendly and attentive (and as the saying goes) without being obtrusive.

With the exception of the $12-$14 drinks and wines by the glass, I don't think the prices were too excessive, especially for a restaurant situated in a hotel. If you are concerned about the prices, you can always make up a room number, sign the bill off to there and never come back. (Note: not recommended. Especially when the hotel is crawling with police for the National Governors' Convention which happened to be in town.)

Overall, in our experience, 10 Arts does most things competently and a few things exceptionally. Despite the Top Chef-judging, platinum-haired celebrity shine that you'd think the place should exude, I would by no means call it a "dining destination", but it is a pleasant enough place to have dinner if you're staying a few floors up and don't feel like stumbling upon a place in the neighborhood. Enjoyable but probably not worth a repeat. Though I might go back for dessert.

10 Arts
10 Avenue of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA 19102

10 Arts (Ritz-Carlton) on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Actually, Ripert is known for Le Bernardin, his first restaurant, located in NY,which is one of the very few three star Michelin rated restaurants. 10 Arts is meant to be simpler fare, as is the case with his other restaurants in the Caymen Islands and Washington, DC.

Paul said...

"P" here. Duly noted and thank you for the clarification. I had heard of Le Bernardin and its surrounding "aura". I don't think it's a knock on 10 Arts that it does not aim as high as Le Bernardin, but doing too many middle-of-the-road joints can certainly take some of the shine off of your reputation if you're not careful.