Guest Post: Hungry Games: Ken and Cook, New York City

On a recent trip to New York City, I decided to check out Ken & Cook, located at 19 Kenmare Street in Nolita, with my sister and brother-in-law, Dubs and Jumbo. The restaurant was a scene that could only happen in Manhattan—the dining room open to the outside, tables close together, loud (but in a good way), packed with beautiful people, mirrors on the exposed brick walls. It just felt cool as soon as we walked in. We loved the tunes that played while we dined (80s throwbacks when we first arrived and nineties hip hop—Gangsta’s Paradise and Back That A$$ Up—before we left.)

The managing partner, Artan, greeted us when we sat down and started us off with some drinks, my favorites being a vodka lychee martini (very sweet) and a really delicious vodka ginger cocktail. I only have good things to say about our server, who pointed out some highlights on the menu.

We started with the squid, which was grilled and served over yogurt with slivered potatoes (the potatoes added an awesome flavor to the dish). The squid was perfectly cooked, light and citrusy. The tart yogurt complemented it beautifully. We devoured it within minutes.

Next we ordered charcuterie and cheese. The culatello was some of the best prosciutto I’ve ever tasted. It was paper thin and didn’t have too much fat on it (which is something that can be annoying about prosciutto). The cheese was pungent and salty. The flavor was definitely strong enough to stand on it’s own, so the figs offered a nice palate cleanser. The server also brought out some bread (like mini baguettes) that looked fresh and delicious. They were unfortunately stale and chewy. But, the bread was the only disappointing part of the meal.

As a surprise before our main course, we were each given an order of the pappardelle, compliments of the chef. I understood why he didn’t want us to miss out on this dish. The thick ribbons of fresh homemade pasta were tossed with slowly cooked veal and radicchio. The dish was savory and very rich.

For our entrees, Dubs had the monkfish served over grilled fennel and accompanied by romesco (a sauce). The romesco was really a standout for me, with a very fresh and bold flavor of red pepper. I would have licked it off the plate if that was a socially acceptable thing to do.

I enjoyed the black bass, served over a bed of swiss chard with a spiced carrot sauce and roasted pearl onions and carrots. When the fish was brought out, the server poured a decadent butter sauce over it, which tasted delicious but also made the presentation of the food theatrical and special. To me, the fish was good but not outstanding (it seemed a little overcooked). However, I couldn’t get enough of the carrot sauce. The flavor was incredible. I would order this dish again just for that.

Jumbo had the Wagyu Flank—a perfectly pink, delicious steak, served with asparagus and pesto. Both Dubs and Jumbo loved the pesto.

Jumbo also ordered a side of mac and cheese, based on his theory that nice restaurants only put mac and cheese on the menu if it’s really good. Jumbo’s theory proved true.

We really enjoyed our experience at Ken & Cook (it was a dining experience…we were there for over 2 hours). It’s a great spot if you’re looking for nice cocktails, good food, and a happening New York scene (we left as the restaurant was turning into a hotspot for models…there were at least 3 tables of young, beautiful women there for a night on the town).

Disclaimer: We were given a 33% discount on our meal, but the opinions are my own.

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