I recently went to 10 Downing for their dinner tasting menu of four courses for $49. With Chef Jonnatan Leiva, a San Francisco expat who specializes on farm-to-table cuisine, it sounds like it’s worth trying and made reservations.
This place felt like a spacious, downtown restaurant at a great location in West Village. Random photos, even a landscape photo of Mexico, and artifacts that strewn across the walls. Large floor-to-ceiling windows; it looks trendy yet it feels comfortable for someone to bring a friend (or several) to have a drink at their bar and move on to their tables for dinner and conversation. When I was there around 6:30, the bar was already two deep and all their tables (near the bar that’s standing only) was filled. Granted, I went when Restaurant Week already started so the crowds are expected.
Looking at their cocktail menu, it is was well rounded and most of their drinks have gin as their main ingredient. The bartender of the evening was pretty ingenious to go with my dining companion’s request for something fruity and sweet. She ended up with a blood orange cocktail that was pleasantly sweet and I would say, feminine, with loads of beautiful citrus to start off the meal. My 10 Downing was refreshing, clean with an herbaceous punch from the chartreuse and gin as its backdrop.
Our second round of cocktails later on the meal were great as well. The Lavender Lemonade was floral, light and nicely tart without feeling like you’re drinking lavender perfume. My Three Gees made of gin, ginger, and grapefruit was refreshing and has some spiciness from the ginger.
For the amuses, we each had a shot chestnut soup. Silky, nutty and has a great balance between sweet and savory. The rosemary popcorn was a fun snack to nibble on while waiting for the first course to arrive. Their house made bread and hummus was pretty darn good. The bread had a great medium-thick crust and fluffy crumb, while the hummus was creamy and slightly herbaceous.
About a minute after the arrival of our amuses, our platter of terrines & pâtés to share were the centerpiece of our table ($22). Generous, luscious slabs of pork pistachio terrine, head cheese, chicken liver mousse, and duck rillette lined this large wooden tray, along with condiments of fennel, beet, and radish salad, whole grain mustard, orange marmalade, and curried onions. I thought I have died in charcuterie heaven – granted this could easily be shared with four people rather than two.
Moving on to the actual first course, my companion had roasted beet “tart” and I had the barley, farm egg “porridge”. The former was sweet and creamy (from the fresh cheese) without being too heavy. My porridge was an intriguing dish, as they cooked the barley like a porridge until it’s chewy and creamy. I liked the natural nuttiness of the barely and the poached egg was cooked perfectly that its yolk is oozy.
Moving to the second course (or third, if you count the charcuterie platter) of crudo of scallop and duo of ahi tuna and salmon belly tartar. Both were amazingly fresh fish and had some hints of Asian influences, especially on my duo of tartars having notes of citrus and sesame oil. The house made nori potato chips served with my tartar was beautifully crisp and seaweed-y.
We also supplemented our tastings with their signature Vadouvan Spice & Coconut Chicken Pot Pie ($23) since we’re curious about the Indian flavors in a pot pie. This pie was large enough to feed three people, unless you do have a really big appetite but nevertheless tasty. The thin, buttery crust was wonderfully flaky. The filling was filled with halved chunks of vegetables (e.g. carrots, oyster mushrooms, etc.) and the chicken pieces were huge. The gravy wasn’t thick as paste but had good body and hints of exotic curry to make it interesting than your standard pot pie.
Moving on to the next course of roasted striploin with bone marrow wild mushrooms, romanesco, potato gnocchi and Hudson Valley glazed duck breast with grapefruit, lentils, anise duck sauce. They were greatly executed dishes. My companion’s duck breast was beautifully cooked to a tender, medium-rare. The lentils gave it a touch of heartiness and substance beyond the protein and the anise duck sauce added the Asian note that appealed greatly to her. The grapefruit was a good touch to lighten up everything on that dish. My striploin was nicely done at medium-rare. The gnocchi was light and fluffy. I really enjoyed the bitter notes from the romanesco to cut through the hearty, dense flavors of this dish.
Finally, we rolled into dessert: chocolate mousse with dulce de leche and banana cream and coconut flan. To be frank, the dessert course was the weakest of the entire evening. The chocolate mousse was light yet decadent but the dulce de leche was too sweet for either of our liking. The coconut flan fared better for not being sweet but it win anyone’s heart.
Overall, this was an excellent meal except for the dessert courses. For a tasting menu price of four courses for $49 per person (before tax, tip and no beverages), this is a bargain. The portions are hearty enough to fill you up. The cooking level at that kitchen with their front of the house staff is like a well-oiled machine even in the midst of the insanely paced, Restaurant Week.
For photos of the rest of the meal, please see the slideshow below: