A wooden sign on the wall reads “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”
Lyrics by the Fab Four seem most fitting for Ten Bistro, a healthful neighborhood joint seeking to bring the community together. Nestled in a Peachtree Corners strip mall a mere two miles from the Atlanta Athletic Club, the subtle counterculture vibe here comes as a welcome surprise.
Ten Bistro sources local and organic produce, dairy, eggs and grass-fed meats. The restaurant boasts a state-of-the-art water filtration system and buys organic fair-trade coffee. Vegetarian and gluten-free options? Check. When asked about the number of gluten-free dishes, owner Jesse Kauffman explained that after developing the gluten-free rice-pasta fettuccine, they noticed that many other menu items were also gluten free and “realized that [they] just tend to cook that way.”
Ten Bistro created a handsome gathering pad for locals, complete with a familiar set of baby boomer-era tunes. Warm woods and lime green Chihuly-inspired fixtures set off the teal exposed-pipe ceiling and warm orange Cirque du Soleil-style fabric drapings.
In an effort to draw folks into this mellow setting, Ten Bistro reached out to the community when developing the menu. Area residents submitted recipes, and several locals currently have their names in print on menus bearing their creations. Over time, additional dishes will be added until the menu contains 10 local flavors.
If you plan to submit a recipe, eschew the consideration of a heavy fried dish for one with a lighter profile. A healthful slant colors the menu at Ten Bistro, with lightened versions of comfort foods weaving their way into each course.
Take the Bahia Nachos ($6.50). These chips won’t break the calorie bank, nor will they taste like it. A few sparse shreds of cheese, tiny strings of fish, diced red onion and a dash of red tomato here and there only garnish the nachos, which remain largely unadorned. Might be time for some new threads? Stick with the complimentary bowl of garlicky hummus, seeded lavash and raw veggies, a stand-in for the bread basket.
Even the brisket, my favorite dish here, goes lighter and natural food-chic, paired with Israeli couscous. The earthy King Platter ($16.95) layers a generous serving of tender brisket over thin slices of tender red and golden beets and beautifully red beet-dyed couscous. The salty beef broth served on the side adds the seasoning missing from the other elements on this strikingly colorful plate, although I must confess I yearn for a little mound of potatoes – just enough to sop up the savory puddle of beef bits and juice.
To the contrary, another dish, the Surfside paella ($16.50), teeters on the edge of lackluster. While paella is often eaten family-style directly from the pan, this version wouldn’t inspire the community to circle up. Rather than a treasured family recipe, it smacks of a weeknight assemblage of a few precooked proteins and a metallic yellow package of Mahatma saffron rice – satisfying but not scarf-worthy.
If you split before dessert, you’ll miss the array of options from smoothies and handmade flavored ice pops to pastries including crepes and panna cotta. You’ll also miss the fact that some of them have been liberated from traditional textural constraints. Thin smoothies ($4.50) in flavors such as spiced peach and almond-coconut-blueberry slosh freely – completely devoid of ice. Our waiter even confesses that he asked the kitchen why the smoothies were so “loose.”
Loose would also aptly describe the key lime panna cotta ($6.50), more milky gelatin than custard. On the flip side, the puckering key lime of the panna cotta paired with the sweet-tart mango coulis almost compensates for the awkward texture.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, gluten-sensitive, calorie-conscious or the average Joe diner, you’ll find something on the menu at Ten Bistro. The kitchen seems to have a fittingly laid-back approach, resulting in a few missteps along the way. Nonetheless, this is a happening place with the local boomers on Saturday nights. And, perhaps after a little more time for exploration, they can work it out.TEN BISTRO 5005 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross. 770-375-8330 Food: New American bistro fare Service: Friendly and chatty Best dishes: The King Platter, key lime panna cotta Vegetarian selections: Wild veggie cake, grilled vegetable sandwich, salads, fettuccine and more Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays. Children: Yes Parking: Yes Reservations: Call ahead for preferred seating up to a week in advance. Wheelchair access: Yes Smoking: No Noise level: High when restaurant is full. Patio: Yes Takeout: Yes