Why TEN? The new TEN China Bistro in Wilton had a lot to live up to, giving itself a number like that. We would be the ones to decide if TEN was indeed an appropriate rating. We were diners on a mission. Chef/Owner Eric Xie would have a lot of "splainin" to do if the food at TEN ended up as anything less. There was only one way to find out...EAT! So eat we did. There are many reasons to try this new Asian fusion restaurant, (in the same plaza as SOUP ALLEY). Would we give it a 10? Well, here's the verdict:
1) The decor in this small but pristine establishment is simple but stylish and has an appropriately Asian feel. Red rope lanterns light the room, and metal high back stools compliment the shiny, subway-tiled bar area. The interior is casual enough for the kids, but designed to suit a date night as well.
2) The menu at TEN (sister restaurant to Village Gourmet in Norwalk and Shanghai Gourmet in Westport) is extensive, and many of the regular dinner choices are available in lunch portion sizes, accompanied by white or brown rice and your choice of soup. I highly recommend the HOT and SOUR complete with bamboo shoots, egg, toasted sesame oil, wood-ear mushrooms, and a subtle vinegar undertone. Even better, try the WONTON SOUP which boasted a delicate dumpling shell, filled with minced pork and served in a slightly salty yet not overpowering broth.
3) The CRISPY RED SNAPPER was unquestionably deep fried (similar to the General Tsao's preparation) yet not at all greasy. The fish was moist and tender under the crunchy shell and was served on a generous bed of classic Asian veggies including BOK CHOY, CHINESE MUSHROOMS and a smattering of peppers. Mango slices added a subtle but appreciated tangy sweetness to this dish.
4) The CHICKEN with CHINESE EGGPLANT was also solid, coated in a light garlic sauce and sprinkled with fresh scallion. We ordered a lunch portion, and felt that the chicken could easily have served two. The sweet, purple eggplant - soft and tender - was reason enough to order this dish.
5) Also enjoyed was the BEEF with SAMBAL SAUCE. Sambal is an Indonesian/Malaysian sauce made with fresh chilis pounded together with toasted shrimp paste in a stone mortar, to which sugar and lime juice are added. Tomatoes are traditionally optional and there were definitely tomatoes in TEN's version. The beef was cooked tender, not overdone as is often the case, and the red pepper/zucchini/ mushroom combo added a nice savory balance to the sweet and spicy sauce. We liked the subtle heat in many of these dishes. If you are ordering for kids, let them know ahead of time that you would prefer a milder version.
6) Hands down, the THAI COCONUT CURRY CASSEROLE was this posse's favorite. It arrived in a cast iron pot with a wooden lid. A delicious aroma of piping hot coconut wafted out of the top announcing the arrival of this entree long before it had reached the table. Inside the treasure pot -JUMBO SHRIMP, CHICKEN, GREEN PEPPER, ONION and POTATO soaked in a creamy bubbling broth of coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger and cinnamon. This entree had nice heat, nuanced flavor and was the ultimate comfort food.
7) After stuffing ourselves to the brim, we watched with a touch of envy as a piping hot plate of BBQ spare ribs passed by. If not for the THAI CURRY CASSEROLE alone, the ribs are reason number 7 to go back. They looked gorgeous and our waitress assured us that the ribs are a signature dish here.
8) It would be remiss to not include the fact that TEN offers a kids menu, complete with chicken nuggets. Though this seemed like a bit of a sell out to some at the table, I am personally grateful to be able to eat the kind of food that I crave and still have some options for my picky little NON-FOODIE offspring.
9) So at number 9, we have the dessert. We ordered the MOCHI, which, unfortunately was a disappointment. The TRADER JOES version is creamier, fresher, tastier. The ice milk in the center seemed grainy and the outer shell, which is supposed to be a soft, powdery rice-starch case surrounding the green tea, vanilla or strawberry inside, was chewy and seemed re-frozen. Due to this disappointing dessert experience, the count to TEN stops here.
10) So, for me, TEN gets an 8. It is very good Asian food at reasonable prices. No, it is not NYC Chinatown, but for Fairfield County, it's a solid choice. It should be noted that TEN "China" Bistro serves Asian food and not exclusively Chinese so be prepared to find dishes from a variety of regions. The ambiance is attractive and relaxing. If just to eat the THAI COCONUT CURRY CASSEROLE again and to try those delicious looking ribs, TEN will be revisited. For your visit, head over to:
TEN China Bistro 239 Danbury Road in Wilton, CT or call (203) 762-7888