Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ken + Cook: A Comfortable Place That Really “Cooks”!

By: Anne M. Raso

Ken + Cook's Chef Malik Fall should be proud of his simple yet artisanal menu with moderate prices and generous portions. This charming eatery is in a space at 19 Kenmare Street that used to be a wise guy "hang" for 70 years; the space still has all the original character that it had when the place was built, including exposed brick and tin ceilings. It's nice the way the whole front wall is open when the weather is warm enough, and it's got the feel of a neighborhood place.
Photo Courtesy of: Ken + Cook

I have to say that I was impressed that each dish is just one word (i.e. "beets" or "chicken")--but do not let that make you think that you won't be blown away. Chef Malik seems to be a master of serving the most tender meat and poultry in town. The fried chicken and short ribs were easily the juiciest I have ever had.
Let's start with the appetizers. I was totally wowed by the soft and gooey Burrata cheese ($16), which was served over a bed of organic wild baby greens and cherry tomatoes, then drizzled with EVO and lemon juices. The arugula leaves were as super tender as the artisanal mound of Burrata cheese--I have to say that the key to the success of this simple appetizer was they everything so incredibly fresh. This is an appetizer that easily works for two people; the chunk of Burrata weighs in at six or seven ounces and there is about a cup of greens including a lot of killer baby arugula.
The Beets ($16) are in a league of their own. This appetizer is actually a medley of golden and red beets with wild greens, radishes and cherry tomatoes, then drizzled with sweet and sassy homemade balsamic vinaigrette and pistachios. It is served over a little bit of savory homemade ricotta (about ¼ cup). This is one of those rare dishes that is uber-healthy but tastes great as well!
Fried Chicken
When I ordered my two main dishes, I decided to go traditional and throw the diet out the window, so I went for the Short Rib ($33) and Chicken ($19). The Short Rib’s well-marinated in soy sauce and secret ingredients and so tender—and thankfully it’s deboned. This delish pile of pork (about a six to eight ounce portion) is served on a bed of Fingerling Potatoes, Creme Fraiche and horseradish.
Short Ribs
The Chicken is possibly the best fried chicken I have ever had in my life—and yes, the menu really just says CHICKEN on it! Chef Malik uses a simple batter of eggs and flour and claims nothing special is done to the chicken, but it still is amazing how juicy it is. Usually frying will take out at least some of the natural juices of a bird. This chicken just drips with juice. I love the way it is served with battered and fried lemon slices. These are delightful even though many mistake them for garnish!
For dessert, I tried the Beignets served with ricotta, blueberry and lavender ($9)—the fresh blueberry sauce is actually in a size dish for dunking, and the tender, superhot beignets have delicious lemon shavings on them. The Vanilla Crème Brulee ($9) is done with the traditional French cram-based recipe—it was creamy and just a little crispy on the top. The pastry chef thankfully does not get too heavy with his blowtorch like a lot of people who seem to enjoy burning the top of a great crème brulee!
Creme Brulee
I strongly recommend Ken + Cook just because it does not disappoint—the food is served quickly as well. You feel at home right away in the dimly lit old-school space and the service is impeccable. For those who love Scotch, the bar has a particularly extensive list of brands for customers to enjoy. They will accommodate customers who need dishes done a certain way (i.e. gluten-free or vegan). Pardon the play on words, but this joint is cookin’!

Ken + Cook Restaurant & Bar
19 Kenmare Street
New York, NY 10012
Cuisine: American

Ken & Cook on Urbanspoon

All photos unless otherwsie noted by Anne Raso

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