What's the vibe:
Located in Brockton Village, Ten is a fine dining spot with a difference. Though tasting menus might have a reputation for being stuffy, Julian Bentivegna is attempting to bridge the gap between casual and top-dollar dining, with a plant-forward space that, as the name suggests, only sits ten guests at a time.
The space in the front will eventually function as a lounge where guests can drink and hang out. Meanwhile, in the back of the narrow space, diners can find their spot at the Chef's Counter – a sparsely decorated open space which feels more like dinner at your friends' kitchen island than a swanky restaurant.
It's an incredibly bold concept to execute so young in one's career (Bentivegna is just 25-years-old), but tasting menus are in his blood with fine ding spots like Alo, Grace (Chicago) and the Black Pig (Calgary) on his resume.
Due to Ten's intimate nature, it's impossible not to feel like a voyeur as Bentivegna and his sous-chef meticulously tweeze ingredients onto plates right in front of you, but you can't help but be impressed by the beautiful dishes the pair conjure in such a small kitchen.
What to drink:
Unfortunately, Ten didn't have its liquor license at the time of our visit, but the drink programme is now up and running and in the hands of sommelier Jen Hunter. Across the reds, whites and sparkling selection, France is well-represented, but there's a fermented cider from Niagara if you want to pair your seasonal supper with a tipple from the province.
The small cocktail offering is split into aperitif and digestif – order the Granny Smith Collins with vodka and apple to start, then round the evening out with an Espresso Manhattan. Burdock Brewery represents the beer side of things, with a sour, saison and pilsner available by the bottle.
What to eat:
Ten has both a five-course ($65) and a ten-course ($115) option, giving guests the chance to splurge on a lights-out meal or dip a toe into Bentivegna's menu. Although the restaurant has been touted as "vegetable-forward," Bentivegna admits that this could well be subject to change depending on what he gets his hands on.
The young chef is not vegetarian or vegan but admits that the herbivore slant to his cooking has helped to hone his skills. "I want to give vegetables the same level of love and attention that I would give to meat or fish," says Bentivegna.
The flavour profiles are bold and unusual, and though they didn't always hit the mark (the potato custard with chive and potato crumb was a conservative way to kick off our dinner), other dishes, like the hedgehog and oyster mushroom with white beans cooked in lemon peels and watercress, blew our carnivorous socks off.
A blind menu awaits future diners, but we can only hope that stand-out items, like the eyebrow-raisingly good basil ice cream with toasted pistachios and satisfying pops of lemon, will be available for the foreseeable.
Dinner and drinks for two: around $160
1132 College St., 587-500-9351; 10restaurant.ca