10 Steak & Sushi
10 Steak & Sushi
55 Pine Street, Providence
Open Mon-Thurs, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun, 5-11 p.m.
Major credit cards
The expression "as American as cherry pie" should be changed to "as American as surf & turf." Where else but in the land of excess and conspicuous consumption would a thick slab of beef not be enough?
Well, 10 Steak & Sushi ó known to its friends as "10" ó has taken on the schizo combination as its identity and signature. It opened about four years ago as Ten Prime Steak & Sushi ó presumably the first name considered was something like Ten Prime Steak & Very, Very Fresh Sushi, and Youíll Like the Funny Drinks, Too.
An entertaining atmosphere seems to be way up on the placeís priorities, though as of a recent visit the waitstaff has not been outfitted as cowboys and mermaids. The restaurant was established by chef John Elkhay, along with Rick and Cheryl Bready, all proprietors of the informal yet culinarily elegant XO Café across town. They have since opened Big Fish, a sea-theme restaurant on Richmond Street. The corporate executive chef for all three these days is Nicholas A. Rabar.
A friend and I came for lunch, with modest appetites, or we might have stopped to exchange challenging glances at the entryway plaques. Engraved are the names of those who have finished off a two-and-a-half-pound Porterhouse. They became members of "Club 10" with their meat feat, apparently unconcerned that the plaque slogan "Size Does Matter" might signal suspicious overcompensation.
While less nautical than Big Fish, the décor gets pretty playful with the sea motif. Varieties of blue twinkle here and there like noon on the Aegean, and a little row of waves splash at the back of the menu. In the menís room, gulls caw, surf pounds, and a shoreline of turquoise glass laps the tops of wall tiles.
My friend might have misheard my suggesting this place for a tapas sampling, but he didnít let his disappointment show when our friendly waitress arrived. I started with one of their five mojito variations, having enjoyed a perfect traditional version here before ó plenty of crushed mint and white rum. The Brazilian Caipirinha had less of both ó it was adequate, rather than superb ó but still enjoyed. Next time, maybe my choice will be the mojito with ginger juice and ginger beer, or the pear (forgive me, Mr. Bond) martini. The specialty drinks are $8 and $8.50. On the lengthy wine list, the categories are blondes and redheads, lest you turn a page and not smile (or roll your eyes). Jerry had a chilled Momokawa sake ($5), from Oregon, served in a square pine box, and was pleased that so much flavor came through without heat wafting up the aroma. Chilled sake is a national trend, and it requires quality.
Jerry sparked his taste buds with white miso soup ($3/$4), gently salty. Lobster bisque and New England clam chowder are also available. Then we had a couple of cold starters. From red snapper to octopus, you can order many items as two-piece portions of nigiri (cooked) or three pieces of sashimi (uncooked). We ordered the unagi ó freshwater eel ó as sashimi, raw, for a change. Instead of being informed that it was available only cooked (as roe comes, for example), we were served a sashimi portion of smoked eel on a tumbleweed of daikon. It wasnít raw, but was delicious and buttery. No harm, no foul. The tuna ceviche ($12) did disappoint, though, with not a breath of the cilantro, and hardly a hint of the ginger juice of its description. Serving it with a flourish in half a coconut isnít compensation.
The "corn-crusted" calamari ($9.50) would have been a hit in Boston, Jerry noted, but again the description suggested something else. The squid rings were lightly dusted with corn flour, not coarse corn meal for a textural contrast. The accompanying lime-cilantro mayonnaise was tangy, but the sliced hot peppers brought it back to the traditional, and perfectly respectable, Rhode Island preparation.
Not up for a T-bone, but still wanting to sample the high-protein half of the restaurantís self-image, I got the only non-seafood choice among the half-dozen lunch entrées, grilled meatloaf ($9.50). I loved it. Fried onion strings atop a slice of nicely spiked ground sirloin, atop garlic mashed red bliss, atop a wide pool of gravy so rich it was almost black. A three-onion demi-glace on the meatloaf was broiled to darker brown. It was delicious.
Desserts are $8-$12, and range from usual suspects (crème brûlée, chocolate soufflé) through unexpected (bananas Foster bread pudding) to one-of-a-kind (Cherylís wedding cake). We scoped them out through red and blue glasses on the 3-D dessert menu, which made them so vivid we felt like weíd already eaten them. We passed.
If I come here again for lunch, Iíll be less ambitious. Iíll settle for the good-humored ambience, and have the meatloaf in the wrap version, which includes mashed potatoes, cheddar, and chipotle mayo. Then maybe dessert. Those are all the traditional American food groups, arenít they?
Bill Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com.