Ken and Cook – 19 Kenmare Street, Manhattan, New York
Earlier this week, I was invited to try Ken and Cook down in NoLita along with Laura and Yael. Admittedly, this is not an area of the city I usual eat out in so I was hesitant on how Ken and Cook would fair. However, I was pleasantly surprised as the restaurant delivered a solid meal in a welcoming, relaxing and trendy atmosphere.
The restaurant is slightly off the beaten path, on Kenmare Street with very little around it aside from traffic for the Williamsburg Bridge. However, Ken and Cook gives off a warm welcoming feeling. The first thing that grabs your attention is the bar. An enormous wall of liquor and spirits is showcased behind it, inviting you in for a drink. Ken and Cook has a casual, yet trendy vibe complete with floor to ceiling windows which can be opened during nice days allowing tables to spill out onto the sidewalk.
We had a chance to meet one of the co-owners, Artan Gjoni, who was clearly very passionate about his restaurant and guided our menu selections (he recommended just about everything). We ordered from the dinner menu:
- Squid: yogurt, mint, chili
- Beets: avocado, radish, cress
- Tartar: beef, egg, toast
- Monkfish: romesco, fennel, thyme
- NY Strip: aged, rosemary, frites
- Chicken: fried, biscuits, honey
- Apple Pie
- Peach Cobbler
We each sampled a little bit of everything and I can say that it was all delicious. For appetizers, the squid and beet salad were good. I’m not a huge fan of beets so I wasn’t crazy about this dish but from what Artan said it is a big hit on the menu and people are raving about it. The squid was similar to Taverna Kyclades and had a nice crunch to it. My favorite appetizer was the beef tartar. It came with an egg on top and three small pieces of toast. The beef was absolutely delicious. You could clearly taste the salt and pepper used to season it (along with I’m sure plenty of other things) that gave it an incredible flavor. The beef, topped with some of the egg and put onto the toast was the perfect start to the meal.
The big hit among the entrees was the fried chicken. Four stacked pieces of chicken were served with a homemade biscuit soaked in honey. This biscuit was unbelievable to say the least. As silly as it sounds, we were all raving about it well after the meal ended. The monkfish was also very good and was accompanied by a romesco sauce. The sauce had a great flavor of roasted red peppers and nuts that complemented the white fish. The sauce did dominate the presentation of this dish, taking up nearly two-thirds of the plate with the fish to the side, so I would have liked to see the Monkfish as more of the focal point. Last but certainly not least, the NY strip steak was perfectly cooked-to-order. It had a great flavor and I could taste just a hint of salt in each bite which kept me coming back for more. Ken and Cook isn’t your traditional New York City steakhouse but based on its NY strip steak, it could have easily fooled me.
For dessert, the peach cobbler and apple pie topped off a great meal. I’m not a huge fan of peaches so I stayed away from the peach cobbler. However, judging by Laura and Yael’s faces, they were very happy with it. I was focused on the apple pie. Taking my first bite, I was immediately reminded of the apple pie my mom makes. The apples were cut in thin slices and layered on top of each other – something I love in apple pie because this eliminates any overly crunchy uncooked pieces and creates an almost apple sauce-like filling.
The owners of Ken and Cook are on the right path. All of the food we had was filled with incredible flavor and kept us coming back for more after each bite. The atmosphere gave you the feeling of a casual yet trendy restaurant, complete with a new downstairs lounge called Li’l Charlie’s. I definitely recommend Ken and Cook and plan to head back at some point.