Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, November 4, 2016-2:20 pm
Dining at Bistro Ten 18 is like visiting a friendly neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar: It’s a pleasant experience, but just not as fulfilling as seeing a friend. Situated on the corner of 110th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, the restaurant offers a local charm that in the all-too-recent past was a rarity in the area: Black-and-white tiles on the floor stick out like colored lights at a disco; a large bar to the side dominates the casual atmosphere. No tablecloths, but the settings are nicely appointed, and the chairs are comfortable. Exactly the type of spot where you’d expect decent American food, and for the most part, this is what Bistro Ten 18 dishes out.
There’s a small wine list and a scattering of cocktails on offer, including the Journalist, a disarming, potent mix of gin, vermouth, Cointreau and more that might cause one to wonder if the name is a nod to the hard-drinking reporters of old or merely the suggestion of sophistication presumed to be innate in the persons of reviewers such as myself. I’ll take the compliment, of course—as well as a selection of domestically sourced charcuterie featuring pheasant pate (a pale chunk of which sits on the plate in mild, savory simplicity), wild boar salami (slightly dry and quite aromatic) and, best of all, smoked duck breast … which carries a thin ridge of fat that adds a bit of unctuous splendor to the powerful, rose-colored meat.
This journalist, however, is not as keen on the “seasoned bistro fries,” a sheaf of not-always-crisp potato sticks that are overwhelmed by the hot, reddened spices; the accompanying chipotle aioli is redundant too strong to be interesting. Fortunately, the fried green beans are a lot more fun: They’re crunchy, firm and palatable, though that same chipotle aioli coming with them is once again ignorable. Why such a sauce needs to be part of this plate or any other is a great mystery; the menu doesn’t provide any rationale. Still, it’s an insignificant problem in comparison to the biggest issue at this restaurant, and that arrives with the “Ten 18 Sirloin Burger” … a perfectly prepared patty that has one major hiccup.
The fried egg on top of it that is ordered is overcooked.
“Now wait a second,” you say. “Isn’t the point of having a fried egg on top of a hamburger to provide an extra, lip-smacking gooeyness that the yolk dispenses when broken?” Well, yes. Sadly, this yolk is intact—and as soft as the sound of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring played by a high school marching band. This is not cool and defeats the purpose of munching such an assemblage …the ordinary pickle, red onion, tomato slice and lettuce leaves supply no backup. Meanwhile, the capable grilled skirt steak comes with a whopping dollop of butter melting atop it; the fries beside this hunka hunka well-charred beef, thankfully, are thin and crackling, sprinkled with not too much salt.
If only everything were that judiciously crafted.
Service is cordial, not memorable, but the kind of thing you’d want in a neighborhood place—nothing above and beyond yet nothing bothersome or overbearing, either. Prices are modest, too: in the teens for appetizers; in the twenties, generally speaking, for most entrees. Like a good neighbor, Bistro Ten 18 is there to visit when convenient. And also like a good neighbor, you don’t overstay your welcome.
When you’re borrowing a cup of sugar, sometimes that’s just what you need. As long as you don’t expect anything fancy or life-transcending, you get just what you came for.
I can’t see any journalist, reporter or otherwise, disputing that.