Nestled in NoLita, right off the Bowery, Ken & Cook is an unassuming little restaurant that serves American food, usually with their own twist. Upon arrival I was greeted warmly by the hostess, but not so warmly from the loud thumping bass that apparently comes from the lounge in the basement. Unfortunately, the loud music from abyss was quite distracting, at least for the hour or so that it seemed to continue.
The restaurant doesn’t appear that large, and the bar area is separated off from the dining area. I like this feature because you’re not forced to knock into people eating or vice versa. The walls are all exposed brick, which is an attribute I always notice and enjoy seeing. The tables and chairs, along with the art, gives it a bit of a vintage feel. The restaurant is certainly located in a neighborhood befitting of its decor and style.
While I decided what I wanted to order, I sipped on an old fashioned, as the set cocktails did not really look too appealing. Unfortunately the old fashioned was not particularly great aside from the bulleit rye and cherries that went into it. The wine list appeared to be extensive, though my only order from the wine list was the Sancere served by the glass with my entree — which I would highly recommend.
For my first course, I opted for the beef tartare which is served with a soft boiled egg and toast points. The steak was well cut up and tender and the delicious egg yolk blended for a wonderful creation. The only failing was not enough toast points.
The Chef kindly sent out one of their most popular dishes, a squid salad with micro greens, yogurt, mint, chilies and little round slices of potato. The dish was refreshing, the squid cooked perfectly and the heat from the chilies was balanced nicely with the yogurt. A touch more salt would have made this dish flawless.
I was craving fish and had heard great things about the black sea bass served on top of a bed of swiss chard, pearl onions, carrots and a sweet carrot puree and brown butter sauce. This dish was refined, the skin was perfectly crisp while the flesh nice and tender. The puree was wonderful and I wish I had more. The dish was also the right size, not overly large or tiny. I sound like goldilocks, The fish was just right.
For dessert, the waiter recommended the bread pudding. I love bread pudding, usually. This, was mush with bad ice cream on top. I normally get apple pie, which apparently was made from an old recipe of Chef Richard Diamonte. I should have gone with my gut (literally) and ordered the pie. Big time dessert remorse ensued.
Overall, there were lots of things to love and not love about Ken & Cook. The menu itself offers a number of dining choices from pasta to aged steak — but no vegetarian entrees or pastas. So I guess if you aren’t a meat eater like me, you’ll be stuck with a couple salads. The appetizers I did try were excellent and the black bass was superb. The things not to love, aside from the aforementioned lack of veggie dishes, was the noise of the underground lounge Li’l Charlie’s. It was truly obscene and really made it hard to even think or sit without my chair vibrating. The overall experience for me was that of good food (minus dessert), O.K. cocktails, and an atmosphere that I really did not dig.