[Free stuff by Wilfrid: August 22, 2012]
I was pleased to accept an invitation recently to see what Ken & Cook is up to on Kenmare, described two year's ago as downtown's new "restaurant row."
That didn't quite transpire, of course. Kenmare itself, that would be hotspot, is shuttered. Ken & Cook occupies the space that once housed Travertine. On the evening I was there, it seemed to pulling a young, fashionable crowd, so demand clearly exists.
Note: The lighting level defeated my surreptitious camera for the most part, but visit The Wandering Eater to see Tina Wong's always great, super-charged photos.
Richard Diamonte, a former Jean-Georges chef, is sending out a bistro menu, but with tweaks and teases which render it better than one might expect: which is exactly what I look for in a casual restaurant with a buzzy bar scene (and a rumored downstairs lounge, which I didn't explore).
Okay, it's dark and noisy, as people generally want places like this to be.
After drinks at the bar, we settled into a table to the side of the main room. The kitchen sent out extra appetizers, in addition to those ordered.
Beet salad is easy to nail. This version was enhanced by generous slices of avocado, and some bitter cress to balance the beets' sweetness.
The culatello, a selection from the short charcuterie list (there's a raw bar choice and a cheese selection too) wasn't quite the best I've had recently, but certainly good enough. The garnish -- a little heap of raisins -- was perhaps too austere.
Steak tartare is another dish which should be easy to nail, and sure enough, a puck of juicy beef (tending toward spicy, again) was topped with a correctly soft and well-seasoned egg. I particularly liked the toast -- soft and buttery, not some inappropriate hunk of country bread.
The lights dimmed as main courses arrived, so consult Tina's blog for a picture of the Wagyu flank steak. I had a lot more tomatoes heaped on mine, almost hiding it, and at first bite I asked myself the inevitable question: "Can I really tell that it's Wagyu?" Heading down to the thicker slices on my plate, I certainly could: a rich, fatty smack to them.
Like most entrées, the flank manages to stay in the mid-twenties (you'll pay more for strip steak or lobster). Appetizers are in the teens; individual servings of charcuterie and cheese very reasonable at $5 a piece.
Will Ken & Cook be the savior of Kenmare Street's gastronomic ambitions? Who can say. I can only tell you that you'll get a nice dinner there right now.
Here's the website.