Ten Center, located in Newburyport, Mass. is an excellent restaurant. Tucked into the back streets of the yuppie coastal town, Ten Center lies within a restored 18th century bakery with exposed beams and brick walls. The two dining areas, a dark and casual downstairs pub and a more formal space upstairs, give patrons two scenes in which to enjoy their meal. Opting for the pub (same menu), my date and I embarked on a feast that left me full for two straight days.
While the look of the restaurant is straight from old New England, the menu is forward thinking and refined with a global scope on local ingredients. To start we shared the house salad and Tapas Paella. The salad was light, sprinkled with a balsamic vinaigrette and accented with blue cheese chunks and dried cranberries. The paella contained all the usual suspects–clams, shrimp, spicy chorizo and scallops–but traded the traditional Spanish saffron flavor for a more creamy rice and fish broth. No matter, it was delicious.
Our appetites were rather large so next we had the full portions of the signature lobster shitake risotto and diver sea scallops and butternut squash mushroom ravioli. Presentation was flawless as the scallops were seared perfectly and the four ravioli looked like soft cushions on the plate. Again, excellent execution on both dishes–rich scallops married with the creamy risotto flecked with shaved asparagus, lobster chunks and mushrooms. Half way through I was content to walk away and enjoy the meal for lunch the next day but our stomachs couldn’t let it go. The butternut ravioli had easily the softest and creamiest filling I’ve ever tasted. The roasted beats and apple-parsnip sauce seemed an unnecessary afterthought on the dish but once the ravs were gone, we had no problem cleaning that plate as well.
Ten Center is a rare gem in the rather stale and chain-heavy Merrimack Valley restaurant scene. The place is pricey and the service was slow, but I didn’t care. When eating such savory food and experiencing lovely company, I’d rather pay a little more and not be harrassed to have my table turned. Ten Center is a destination resturant that is perfect for a romantic date night or a casual meal after walking along the Newburyport waterfront. But be warned, bring your appetite.