Brasserie TenTen

A Boulder Institution Serving Classic French Cuisine With a Modern Twist

Article by Tony Firestine

Photography by Poppy & Co. by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

Three years after a pandemic-driven closing and 20 years after their first opening on Boulder’s Walnut St., Brasserie TenTen has come back strong. A Boulder institution, mostly just known as “Brasserie” to those locals in the know, has been serving the community as a well-known hangout for people to gather and dine on French classics in a bustling and vibrant setting.

“Running a Boulder institution is a great honor and responsibility,” says Executive Chef and Partner, Tony Hessel. “It means being part of a community that has a deep appreciation for food, service, and a sense of place. It also means being committed to upholding the high standards that have made the restaurant a beloved part of Downtown Boulder.”

Closing in on a year after reopening, Brasserie TenTen has found its footing and re-rooted itself back into the Boulder dining scene. “The restaurant has evolved into everything we wanted it to be,” Tony says.

While the dining room stays basically the same as it was before the restaurant's closing, the kitchen has gone through a complete overhaul. “It was a long and challenging process, but we felt it was necessary to keep our restaurant up-to-date,” Tony says. “We wanted to keep the dining room the same to preserve its classic atmosphere so just a little paint, and special touches.”

On a recent Thursday dinner visit, as we entered, the bar was still packed after a busy post-Happy Hour crowd (Happy Hour is Tues-Sat 2:30-5:30 pm) where you can find daily discounts on oysters, appetizers, and drinks. We were lucky enough to reserve a table in the dining room right at the peak dinner hour. The dining room was brimming with action and the team circled tables with swift precision. We were seated promptly for our reservation and service was instantly authentic and amiable. Our waiter was knowledgeable and friendly, knew the menu and wine list inside and out, and treated his guests with grace and aplomb.

We started with Pomme Frites as hors d’oeuvres and two glasses of white wine, a Riesling and a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine list leans towards the old world and everything is available by both glass and bottle. While we chose two of the value offerings, any glass over $20 is poured by Coravin, a wine preservation system from which you can pour wine without removing the cork. This is a great way to try wines you may not otherwise want to spring for a bottle of, and the rest of the bottle stays fresh and vibrant. As recent recipients of the 2023 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for their extensive wine list, Brasserie is extremely proud of their Beverage Director Jason Ledterman for managing and continuing to keep their wine selection fresh and exciting.

The Pomme Frites hit the table and were impeccably savory and crisp. Pre-pandemic the frites were more of a Belgian-thick cut style but they’ve opted to change the recipe to a thinner shoestring style, piled high and served with a tarragon aioli.  Two excited diners next to us were commiserating over a large bowl of mussels, using the shells as a spoon and sopped up the broth with pillowy bread. This and the frites cued me to order the traditional mussel preparation (Prince Edward Island mussels steamed with garlic, shallot, leek, thyme, white wine, lemon, butter, and crème fraiche). Chef Tony mentioned that the kitchen was focused on traditional cuisine with some non-traditional touches. The placemat-sized menu is filled with traditional French offerings like Entrecote Frites (grilled hanger steak with pomme frites and maître d butter) and Bouillabaisse (traditional Provençal fish and shellfish stew with country bread and sauce rouille).

My dining companion opts for the Salade Niçoise for a main course, served with the traditional accompaniments and I chose the Halibut Meuniere. The nightly offerings change and specials grace the menu (that night it was Duck Confit Croquettes and Trout Almondine) but we stuck with the classics. The halibut was flawlessly seared and accompanied by perfectly cooked asparagus; tiny croutons stud the top of the fish, soaking up the lemon butter. The Salade Niçoise was crowned with a delicately poached egg, and the yolk intermingled with the Dijon basil vinaigrette.

We couldn’t pass up dessert to help finish our wine and we went for the classic opera cake; an almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup. It’s rich and unctuous and an ideal finish to the meal.

“Reopening and running a busy restaurant in Boulder after a three-year absence is a challenge in itself,” says Tony. “It is a different business model. We are aware of these changes and are adapting as quickly and as efficiently as possible.” Not only is Brasserie TenTen reopening their business, but they are bringing back a Boulder institution. Judging by the bustling crowd on a Thursday and an excellent meal, Brasserie TenTen is here to stay this time around.

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