For foodies, and perhaps anyone who has watched Top Chef, Eric Ripert's name goes a long way. Pal of Anthony Bourdain, Ripert's quietly stylish reputation as a successful chef precedes him. Given the branded full name of 10 Arts "by Eric Ripert," the restaurant is clearly banking on this reputation. And reputation alone -- as my friend eagerly asked when we were seated, "is the chef here tonight?" she was firmly told, "yes, Chef Jennifer Carroll is in tonight." Which is of course not suprising, but nonetheless disappointing. Although the hostess, in response to my friend's smooth save, "oh good, I'm glad she's here," suggested that she might visit us, Chef Carroll instead made the rounds to other tables, patiently answering questions but looking very, very young and a bit awkward.
Equally suggestive of a restaurant banking on name alone, 10 Arts' menu is missing from any website or public forum. Perhaps given its recent opening, the restaurant hopes to continue to tweak the menu, but again, I found this disappointing. Also disappointing were the "Perfect 10" drinks, named after famous Philadelphia sites and people. My Eakins Elixer mix of blood orange juice, orange vodka and a third ingredient with a sugar rim tasted disappointingly like orange juice. The "Perfect 10" drink was a rather imperfect $12.
Onto better things. My tuna carpaccio, recommended by our server, was delicious, served with olive oil, chives, shallot and lemon. It was thin to the point of translucence with a delicate, fresh flavor. Less successful was the salmon rillette, a fairly bland taste of salmon and cream. The grilled shrimp with quinoa and herb salad featured three large shrimp and was described as "very good" by VBF.
My salmon entree was helpfully described as "wild," a fairly important distinction these days. Served with "savoy cabbage, red wine bearnaise," it was fairly raw and tasty. I missed any "bearnaise" part of the red wine sauce, which was a thin, salty, vaguely wine-like topping for my cabbage. The effect was a bit strong for the delicate salmon. Similarly, VBF's "Striped Bass 'Grand Mere,'" served with pearl onions, fingerling potatoes and wild mushrooms was done well, but included an overpowering savory sauce that I normally associate with red meats that became too much. The mini-hamburgers were good, served with a spicy mustard and ketchup on a brioche bun.
The desserts were excellent, however. All trendily named with flavors, I ordered "Chocolate Peanut Butter," and was treated to a chocolate peanut butter tart with a malted chocolate "Tastycake" ice cream. I have no idea where the ambiguous "Tastycake" flavor entered, however.
The decor remains that of a hotel lobby, albeit a fashionable one. This might explain the Philadelphia names sprinkled through the menu. We also perused the bar lounge menu, which may be superior to the restaurant offerings and included warm soft pretzel bites and other appetizer-size plates.
Perhaps I've grown too spoiled by the multitude of excellent options in Philadelphia for a bargain, but I found this straightforward, American eclectic menu to be overpriced. With a single drink, our bill came to $90/person, reinforcing my idea that 10 Arts is more about the brand. That being said, the tuna carpaccio was transcendant and the service extraordinary. On a return visit, I might stick with the lounge area.
10 Arts is located in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, at Broad and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, www.10arts.com.