Named for its seating capacity, Ten Restaurant is a tiny new restaurant in Brockton Village, at the corner of Dufferin and College, with a big vision. Led by 25-year-old Julian Bentivegna, Ten offers five- and 10-course tasting menus comprising mostly vegetable-forward, seasonal and Canadian dishes with or without pairings of mostly organic and biodynamic wines. The five-course meal is $65 while the 10-course tasting menu is $115. The optional wine pairings cost $30 for the five-course; and $60 for the 10-course.
The original concept for the restaurant came to Bentivegna a few years ago while he was working at Momofuku Daisho and Shōtō. He started putting on pop-ups in a rented loft space in the East end, playing with local vegetables and serving the kind of plates that, he says, he’d like to eat: Mostly vegetables, sometimes accented by a piece of daily-changing seafood, or the tasteful placement of a chicken skin crumble, but never in a way that feels heavy.
In May of last year, Bentivegna found the right space — formerly the site of a florist with a private residence in the back, the team hollowed out the two spaces to create one long, narrow restaurant. Up near the front is a window-side lounge with four tables, where plans for a separate and more casual menu and cocktails is on the horizon (current occupancy: eight). Further in, a 10-seat granite counter wraps around the elevated chef’s station.
Throughout the restaurant, the colour scheme mixes pale pastel and white oak; the style is Scandinavian minimalism, courtesy of Lloydlondon Architects. This pared down approach translates nicely to the courses, each meticulously prepared by Bentivegna and his sous chef Simon de Sousa, with wine pairings curated by sommelier Jen Hunter.
The menu changes with the seasons, and with the availability of ingredients. When we visited, the meal opened up with Sri Lankan grouper from Honest Weight (the restaurant mainly serves bycatch, which are fish that have been caught unintentionally in the pursuit of larger, more desirable catches). The super-tender morsels of grouper were lightly blowtorched and floating in a delicate vinaigrette of scallions, chilis and cucumber broth.
Next came a bite sized square of roasted and butter-basted pumpkin, sitting in a small pool of cashew puree, layered with romaine jam and toasted pumpkin seeds, with a sliver of pickled butternut squash and dressed in rosemary oil.
The bread course was a delightfully simple slice of freshly house-baked sourdough brioche served alongside a carrot butter, made with reduced carrot sauce mixed with quality butter and topped with carrot greens. Creamy, with more than a hint of sweetness, this slice of toast evoked carrot cake but with the pure lightness of a simple slice of toast.
And though the menu is a constantly changing creature, Bentivegna and co. strive for perfection with their mushroom and white bean dish, a staple on both the five-course and the 10-course menu. And thank goodness — it’s a course worth coming back again and again for. Yellowfoot and oyster mushrooms are sautéed with shallots and garlic, and combined with white beans which have been cooked with lemon peels. Finished with a sprinkle of crispy toasted buckwheat, nasturtium greens and fresh truffle, the resulting dish creates an earthy, salty, dewy evocation of seasons changing.
The dessert course offered a palate-cleansing bowl of pineapple ice with a light drizzle of rosemary oil, alongside a frozen white chocolate bar — a whimsical idea, but one that’ll get your fingers dirty.
By the end, one walks away from the meal feeling full but not exhausted: This is no marathon of buttery decadence; rather it is a parade of freshness and flavour. With the creative curation of local ingredients (the carrot greens; the nasturtium topper; the implacable sweetness of romaine jam under a sheet of squash), Ten restaurant encourages diners to open up their perception of southern Ontario vegetables — and it works.
Ten Restaurant, 1132 College St., 416-538-3810