DON’T FLAKE ON THIS ONE The pastry selection at Ten Ten Pié.
Last year some national magazine said that Biddeford is to Portland as Brooklyn is to New York. No. Biddeford is a mash-up of Newburg and Poughkeepsie. It is East Bayside that is our Brooklyn. Little pockets have been gentri-hipstri-fying for years now, and in the predictable ways (starting with coffee, breweries, and distilleries—liquids first, like a baby). Now we are ready to experiment with solids, and Ten Ten Pié, a new spot on the bayside’s edge-defining Cumberland Avenue—offers the chance.
If East Bayside is our Brooklyn, Cumberland is our Flatbush Ave.—an artery of such cultural persistence that it seems immune to the transformations occurring around it. On Cumberland crosswalks mean less, the mysterious forces that create potholes pull harder, and proposals for luxury condos fail to secure capitalization. So perhaps it a takes a spot as quirkily compelling as Ten Ten Pié—a partnership between a neighborhood activist and a baker whose resume includes both Standard and Miyake—to get things going.
The exterior of the building, a stand-alone three-story, has the sort of ugly utilitarianism rendered beautiful in Mike Kolster’s photographs, currently on display at the PhoPa Gallery nearby.
The inside refines the utilitarian feel, with garish yellow walls and shelves filled with both wine and food staples. The other side packs in a busy kitchen behind a paned window, and a display of fresh savory and sweet pastries. For lunch they can make a bento box of any savory pastry along with green, potato, and quinoa salads. There is a different bento special everyday, which can replace the pastry.
On two recent visits the daily bento box was a symphony of sours. The white ball of potato looks mashed, but offers chunky texture with its vinegar and onion sharpness. The baby kale salad only hints at its parent’s bitterness, and is touched with a fruity dressing. The tender quinoa is dressed with a thin and tart aioli, and spotted with edamame.
One recent bento special featured very good kimchi and chicken tacos suffused with a rich red sauce thick with pepper but more sour than hot. The two tacos were each made with a tortilla smeared with a black bean sauce, and were filled out with crunchy-pickly pieces of cabbage and carrot, and dense little pieces of chicken. Another day the special was salmon and hijiki rice. The brown rice, not fried but given a touch of oil and heat, was liberally spotted with the briny-sour hijiki seaweed and little bits of the fish, along with more edamame. It seemed simultaneously hearty and light.
Among the savory pastries, one experimented with sea urchin and blue cheese inside a light and flaky danish-like oval of pastry. In both look and flavor it was funky, fishy, and odd, but sort of appealing. More predictably satisfying was a denser pastry stuffed with kale and feta (the dominant flavors), onions (several kinds, lending sweetness), potato, and zucchini.
If the entrees lean sour, the sweet pastries and desserts balance them out. A terrific almond croissant has more pastry and less paste than Standard’s version, making it feel a bit more adult. A little bundt-shaped cannelé, made with burnt custard, had that combination of crunchy-chewy crust and softly chewy interior that marks great bagels. Chocolate pudding was rich and creamy, and topped with a miso-caramel cream (which tasted more of caramel).