I thought I knew what the dish arroz con pollo was, basically. Chicken with rice, right?
But the dish I saw billed as arroz con pollo at Ten Ten Pie on Cumberland Avenue in Portland did not match up with the picture in my head. I noticed little bits of chicken and some fat grains of rice. But what were the little squiggly black things, the long yellow things and the medium-sized red things?
I tried not to think too much about the fact that I couldn’t easily identify most of the ingredients and just took a bite.
The combined taste of these mystery foods blew my mind. In a good way.
I found out later that the dish included seaweed, egg strips, house-pickled radishes, shiitake mushrooms, sweetened tofu skin, and of course rice and roasted chicken. It was billed as Japanese arroz con pollo on Ten Ten Pie’s Facebook page, and was a perfect example of how this little bakery and take-out place melds Japanese and European flavors in ways most of us have never thought of.
I know I certainly hadn’t.
Every day there’s a lunch special, like the arroz con pollo I had, and you can get it in a bento box with various side dishes. My bento box, for $8.95, included the chicken and rice dish plus a mixed green and avocado salad, and quinoa salad with edamame.
The pickled radish pieces were a little sweet, and crunchy. The chicken was a little savory, and still warm, and the egg strips were fluffy. The combination of flavors, and of crunchy, chewy and soft textures was an amazing treat. There were so many ingredients in the dish I would never have ordered. But in this preparation, I loved them all.
It is interesting to note that Ten Ten Pie, with its innovative combination of flavors, is housed in the former DiPietro’s sandwich shop on Cumberland Avenue. DiPietro’s was open for 69 years and was best known for that much-loved but hard-to-figure creation known as a Maine Italian. It combines boiled ham with American cheese, and somehow comes out Italian.
Ten Ten Pie is owned by Markos Miller and Atsuko Fujimoto, and Japanese products are for sale all over the shop. The menu, consisting of savory pastries, sweet pastries, and lunch specials, has lots of Asian flavors as well.
You can get a steamed bun with pork and kimchi for $5.35 or a savory pastry called sea salt onigiri, with rice, edamame and nori for $2.50. But the sweet pastries can veer more European, including a pinwheel with lingonberry jam for $2.65 and an apple galette for $5.50.
The pastry counter is a thing of beauty. Besides the 15 or so listed on the menu on Ten Ten Pie’s Facebook page, there are specials that pop up all the time, like a double chocolate sake cake.
While my bento box lunch was plenty filling, I also decided to try a little pastry called a visitandine, for just $1.25. It was a small cookie-like cake of almond and brown butter, with low-bush blueberries. It was a little gooey, but firm enough, and sweet, but not too sweet.
Miller told me it was like a “financier.” I’ve never had one of those, but judging from the visitandine I had, they must be delicious.
The place is located on Cumberland Avenue near Franklin Street. It’s just a block off Congress Street. It’s close enough to Lincoln Park to stroll over with your food and eat on a park bench under a shady tree. That’s what I did.
When I go back to Ten Ten Pie I’d like to try something called a Chinese sausage croissant. I saw one cut open, and it looked delicious, though I could not tell you one thing that is in it.
Which, at Ten Ten Pie at least, works out pretty well for me.
WHERE: 171 Cumberland Ave., Portland | 207-956-7330 | www.facebook.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
PARKING: On street
WAIT: About five minutes
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes