Ken and Cook is a new restaurant that took over the old Travertine space on Kenmare Street, and for that alone we're willing to give it five rating points. Travertine was awful, and we're glad it's gone.
This new restaurant is most certainly an upgrade for the neighborhood (as would have been a dollar pizza joint, an Outback Steakhouse, or a puppy mill), and is basically a Keith McNally inspired brasserie minus the Keith McNally design budget and Keith McNally food. Ken & Cook is not the kind of place that's going to be making headlines for the foodie press in New York City, nor is it the next restaurant that you're going to be telling your friends about. But it is a good option for dinner if you happen to be hitting a show at Bowery Ballroom and need something easy, or if you're rolling through Nolita with a big group and have already struck out at Rubirosa and Parm.
The key to having a positive experience at Ken & Cook seems to lie in eating simple and drinking a lot. That means that you should order a bottle of wine from their surprisingly good wine list and stick to things that aren't likely to let you down if they're not perfectly executed. Pastas are a good bet, as are the fish options.
Four oysters for seventeen bucks is a little on the pricey side, but these old school classics with spinach and Pernod are pretty good. Give 'em a whirl, as long as you aren't concerned with running up the bill for a bite or two.
A better than decent beef tartar that comes with some toast points and a soft boiled egg on top. Ask for some extra bread, and this should keep you happy for a little while.Fried Chicken
As is the case with any good brasserie (?), Ken & Cook swears that the fried chicken is there signature dish. They should stop telling people that. This was a strangely presented pile of chicken with fried lemon slices and two dry biscuits, and it kind of sucked.Linguine With Clams
For some reason, every restaurant that occupies this space feels the need to pay homage to the Lil' Charlies Clam Bar that once occupied the space. Ken & Cook is actually opening a downstairs club by the same name (of course they are). This bowl of clams and pasta on the dinner menu is a pretty mediocre salute.Veal Pappardelle
A tasty but very heavy bowl of pasta. I think I was expecting this be a little less heavy handed, but in retrospect I have no idea why. It's a nice plate of food, but it will stay with you for a while, depending on how often you do Zumba. I do it A LOT.Black Bass
This piece of fish was one of the better things we had at Ken & Cook. It sits atop a pile of broccoli rabe and then clams are piled on top, creating one pretty delicious pile.