The Ten Bells is mysterious.
Not having done a photo study before my first visit to The Ten Bells, I walked back and forth on the short block of Broome Street that runs between Orchard and Ludlow with nary a sign of the place. Literally, that is… no sign. Not even a number to signify the address I’d scribbled on a piece of scrap paper in the wee hours of the morning before taking the early train up to New York. It was only after narrowing down the options then spotting an empty Dard & Ribo bottle as I peered through one of the few unobscured window panes at the spot where I’d stopped that I knew I was in the right place.
The Ten Bells is dark.
It’s one of the few gripes I’d heard about the place. It’s so dark you can barely see what you’re drinking. It’s so dark that I didn’t even bother trying to take my own pictures. (The first two shots here are borrowed, with thanks, from Melissa Hom’s shoot for New York Magazine.)
The Ten Bells is dangerous.
Or at least it would be were it in my neighborhood. If you can squint hard enough to read the wine list, scrawled and crammed onto the chalkboards that flank the east and west walls in The Ten Bells, you’ll find a tremendous array of natural wines from artisan growers, priced fairly and chosen with care by Fifi, Jorge and the rest of the Ten Bells crew.
The stemware may be too tiny to show off the full charms of those wines – about the only other common gripe I’ve heard (or could imagine) – but that makes sense given the marble bars and tight quarters that would wreak havoc on larger, more fragile glasses. It’s also befitting of The Ten Bells vibe. There’s nothing precious about the place. And while there’s a wild wine list, it’s a real neighborhood bar first, a “wine bar” second. The staff behind that bar seemed just as happy to serve up cold beers and shuck oysters on a hot August night as they were to pour glasses of Alice and Olivier De Moor’s 2007 Sauvignon St. Bris from magnum.
My cohort Wolfgang and I agreed that we could drink wines like these – the Burgundy from De Moor and Philippe Bornard’s 2007 Arbois-Pupillin Ploussard “Point Barre” – every day. That Ploussard from Bornard, in particular, was a joy to drink. So brightly hued it could have been fresh-pressed juice; pure, lively and focused, with nothing to weigh down the mind, body or palate.
The food’s no afterthought, either. A lightly smoky, barbecue glazed octopus and potato dish was a standout. Sherry-laced sautéed wild mushrooms, a comfortingly simple dish of brandade, and a generously heaping plate of sliced Serrano ham rounded out a more than satisfying meal, pieced together from The Ten Bell’s small plate menu.
Definitely a dangerous place…. The joint may get crowded as the night wears on, but it’s a good buzz. And as long as they’re serving it up like this, I’ll keep heading back.
The Ten Bells
247 Broome Street [map]
New York, NY 10002
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The Ten Bells is mysterious.