Ten Tigers Parlour in Petworth is many things. It’s a restaurant. A bar. A beautiful garden patio. A lounge. A Sri Lankan roti pop-up. A live music space. An arcade. A daytime remote work hangout. There’s also a ping-pong table smack dab in the middle of the main dining room. Indeed, every time we’ve been in has been a completely different experience. Almost as often, the menu is completely different. Although it’s a tad confusing, it’s also rather intriguing.
Ten Tigers opened a little before we moved to Petworth in February 2016, and has made several headlines in its short tenure. Tom Sietsema, while a fan of most of the food, complained about uncomfortable seating. Customers complained about overpriced soup dumplings, and consulting chef Tim Ma took to the mic to defend them. (Tim Ma is no longer consulting, and the soup dumplings have been removed from the menu. We had said soup dumplings, and found them rather enjoyable – for the record.)
We’ve stopped in several times and have yet to really get a full grasp on what we think of it. Early on, we regularly enjoyed Tim Ma’s famous creme fraiche wings, featured on the original menu. (Wing lovers, fear not – there’s a new version on the menu with a “classic orange sauce”.)
The back patio is a surprising oasis hidden behind the easy-to-miss restaurant on Georgia Ave. On one visit, we sipped boozy boba tea al fresco and snacked on spicy fried cauliflower – both very tasty. To my knowledge, neither the boba nor the cauliflower are available any longer.
The ever-changing menu keeps us on our toes, as we stop in one evening and find great live jazz music and bar food that seems rather familiar. An order of roasted red pork with ginger chimichurri offers explosive flavors and excellent texture. The tender, sweet shrimp in the crystal shrimp dumplings are perfectly delicate yet vibrant on the taste buds. The only misstep is the slightly overcooked leek buns.
Based on both the appearance and taste of these dishes, we couldn’t help compare them to similar dishes we’ve loved at Maketto on H Street. Funny enough, just the next day we saw the news that Erik Bruner-Yang had signed on to revamp the Ten Tigers menu. Mystery solved, and a very exciting outcome!
In subsequent returns, we’ve found a bit of inconsistency in what comes out of the kitchen. The roasted red pork and shrimp dumplings came out looking a little less colorful. The pork was cut in larger portions, and much tougher. The crystal shrimp still tasted great, but lacked the same oomph we’d appreciated previously.
Our latest visit was during their new brunch, which our server informed us may already be on the way out. Considering we were the only patrons in the restaurants for the first half hour of our meal, I would venture to guess low attendance to be the cause.
We ordered a couple of dishes we’d yet to try, with mixed results. The pork and shrimp wontons in chili oil were the standout with a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a truly mouth-numbing chili oil. Cabbage and mushroom wontons in tamari sauce were tough and rather bland. Our opinions varied on the pork and shrimp sui mai – Tom enjoyed the texture, while I found everything a bit too soft with an off-putting bitter finish.
At the end of the day, we’re still not quite sure what to think about Ten Tigers. But that won’t keep us from going back. It seems like they’ve found more success in the night crowd (there are often live DJs in the upstairs lounge), but the food has yet to catch on. We’ve experienced a few glimpses of greatness in the many dishes we’ve ordered, and hope to see more of that in the future.
If you live in Petworth and haven’t been to Ten Tigers yet – give it a shot. With more regular customers, I think this place could really grow into something special. And the last thing we want on this stretch of Georgia Ave is another empty retail space. Whether it’s for a drink outside, a quick bite in the afternoon or a ping-pong tournament, I can guarantee you won’t be bored.