"Is it British food?"
That seemed to be the question that first came to mind when I mentioned to people that I was going to 10 Downing for a Restaurant Week dinner. The restaurant's name actually refers to its address, though I have read it was also intended as a slight nod toward the British. The food, however, shows little evidence of that.
The space, oddly shaped because of it's triangular corner location, was fairly large and had several tables on the sidewalk as well. It was bright and decorated with an eclectic assortment of photographs and art. We made it here after venturing out into one of the powerful, windy thunderstorms of the summer, so I appreciated and was excited by the more original offerings on this RW menu; interesting choices can make up for the limited number of things from which you have to choose. When the waiter came to introduce the RW menu to us, he made a comment about how it was becoming "restaurant summer" in a way that came off seeming snide.
Chicken Liver Mousse with Grilled Bread and Pickled Carrots and Pearl Onions
This was all served on a cutting board-style platter in ramekins. The mousse was rich and topped with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped chives and a sprinkle of pepper. Though it seemed small, the portion was more than enough. To really enjoy this dish, you must really like liver as it had a very deep, earthiness to it. I had to ask for more of the toast because the proportion of bread (three slices) to mousse was way off.
Radicchio Salad with Manchego Dressing, Toast with Chopped Green Olives, Zucchini Pickles and Garlic.
My dining companion enjoyed this salad, though it seemed somewhat plain.
Haddock a la Plancha with Green Squash, Cherry Tomatoes and Persillade
This is a fish I have rarely seen on menus other than fried at a fish shack. And even then, it's usually somewhere in New England. So I wasn't entirely sure what to expect of this preparation. The large fillet was deeply browned on top and flaky and tender on the inside. It tasted nicely fishy but was mild enough to be good for mixing with the bright green pesto-like sauce (it was actually finely chopped parsley mixed with garlic and herbs) and absorbing its flavors.
Crispy Pork Belly with Creamed Corn, Pearl Onions, Anise Hyssop and Tapenade Jus
My dining companion loved the creamed corn. She was lukewarm on the dish overall because the pork belly, while cooked well, tasted primarily just of meat. I liked the pork belly, but agreed that the seasoning or flavoring was boring.
Peanut Butter Gelato with Tri-star Strawberry and Blueberry Marmalade
This was a good summer dessert. The gelato had a strong peanutty flavor that may have come from what looked like flecks of peanut. The marmalade tasted fresh and complemented the dish well. It was the restaurant's take on peanut butter and jelly. The dish was accompanied by two slices of white toast that didn't do anything for me.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Vanilla-Roasted Peaches and Green Cardamom
A standard dessert that didn't stand out here. The green cardamom added little, as it served mostly as a garnish.
The menu at 10 Downing was promising, filled with great combinations of ingredients and vegetables that reflected the farmer's market. In the end what we got was good food, but less special than we had expected, especially given the menu. The ingredients weren't used to their full potential. Would I return? I wouldn't cross it off the list, especially if I were looking for a simple place to have a nice dinner or were in the area. But I didn't leave with enduring memories of the food that would inspire a craving for 10 Downing.