Walking around the now swankified triangle of Lafayette St, Kenmare St. and Cleveland Place in Soho on a warm but crisp September evening, the dinner choices are endless, especially if you want a restaurant with windows wide open and tables spilling onto the sidewalk. It's cool, yet classy--the place to see and be seen, but also to chill and enjoy quality food. The vibe remains the same however if you walk a few blocks east on Kenmare to the relatively new American joint Ken & Cook.
Helmed by executive chef Richard Diamonte and partner Artan Gjoni (both veterans of Jean Georges’), Ken & Cook offers a simple menu of spiffed up comfort foods with fresh ingredients, all rounded out with a raw bar and a few surprises. Last week I was invited in for dinner with a couple of blogger friends (Laura and David) and we had a great time.
Walking inside, you instantly notice the simple, yet vast bar, lit up from behind and made from what seem to be metal pipes. The ceilings are pressed tin, the walls painted original brick, and the banquettes vintage leather. The dining room isn't large, but big enough, with a few more private booths in the back. The service was wonderful from start to finish. Our waiter kept coming by to check on us and was happy to make recommendations (although he pretty much recommended 85% of the menu).
Although the cocktail menu looked amazing, it was a wine kind of night for me. I ordered the Pino Noir they had by the glass, and it was a great compliment to my meal. For starters, we ordered the beet salad with avocado, radish, and cress ($14), the squid salad with yogurt, mint, and chili ($15), and the beef tartar with egg and toast ($16). The beet salad was the kind of dish which really let the ingredients shine. The beets were well balanced with the different color radishes (that I originally mistook for tomatoes) and I pretty much love anything with avocado. The squid salad was delicious as well and very flavorful. Having never tried beef tartar before, I was a little timid, but it was tasty. I'm sure it was how it was supposed to be, but I couldn't get past the texture, and only had one bite.
For entrees, I chose from their wide variety of seafood and ordered the Monkfish with Romesco sauce, fennel, and thyme ($26). I love Romesco sauce, but my only criticism of the dish is that it took up most of the plate and looked a little bit like an uncooked pancake. Do people actually eat that much sauce? Otherwise, the fish was wonderful. Perfectly cooked, moist with a crisp shell, and the fennel complemented the other flavors well. I'm not sure what spice was sprinkled around the edge of the plate, but it was tasty also.
Laura ordered the fried chicken ($19), what the owner told us was coming to be know as a cult favorite, and I believe him. Honestly, I kind of wish I'd ordered this, if only for the homemade biscuits and honey. The way to my heart is definitely through a warm buttermilk biscuit. The chicken was no sidekick though. It was super crisp on the outside, but filled with flavor and the chicken meat was super moist.
David continued his carnivorous meal with the NY Strip Steak ($39). Served with rosemary and thin cut fries, this was as flavorful a piece of steak as I've ever tasted. It looked a little lonely on the plate and steak can often be cooked poorly at non-steak houses so I was a little weary, but one bite and I knew that someone in the kitchen knew what he/she was doing.
|NY Strip Steak|
We were all pretty full by this point, but really wanted to sample some of the desserts. We decided upon the Apple Pie ($8) and the Peach Cobbler ($8) both with vanilla ice cream. David commented that he liked how the apples were thin cut in the pie and I have to agree with him--makes it easier to eat. The crust on both (I'm guessing it was made from the same dough) was perfectly buttery an not too sweet. The advantage of the cobbler was that it was in a little metal dish and hence stayed warm longer. However, the apple pie was probably bigger, so depending on what you're going for...or you could always order both.
The bar scene definitely started to get more crowded when we left around 9:30 (this was on a Wednesday), and a little birdie told me that the new downstairs lounge Lil' Charlies' opened last week for dancing and general debauchery (we snuck a peak of mug shots on the wall and lots of red light beaming up).