Rule of thumb- if they’re playing classic rock, it’s going to be good. If they’re playing a curated selection of late Blondie, T-Rex, and Depeche Mode, it’s going to be freaking awesome. Austen and I took an evening to relax and slurp oysters at the new, fabulous Ken and Cook, a downright delightful raw bar and restaurant in Solita. The restaurant, less than a year old, features a hefty seafood selection, curated cocktails, and larger plates that are not to be passed up.
We started our dinner with tuna tartare and a dozen oysters, fostering a friendly East vs. West battle that pitted Kumamoto oysters against my personal beloved Naked Cowboy. While the two are vastly different bicoastal bivalves, the Naked Cowboys won us over with their big, soft chew and sweet aftertaste.The tiny Kumamotos were ever so slightly sandy, and for a raw bar, I expected oyster forks in lieu of dinner forks, which made the extraction somewhat awkward.The tartare was creamy, minced finely a la francaise and almost whipped into a delicate, airy frenzy. Topped with avocado, baguette slices, chervil, and ringed with cucumber and a mild ginger aioli, it was a towering treat, pleasant to smear atop bread and eat with the thin veggie chips. A balanced, if tame tartare.Entrees were generous and varied, with seasonal, fresh flavors. My braised lamb shank was perfectly tender, with flavorful, lamby vegetables cooked alongside the meat. Also notable was the quinoa, surprisingly edible and, dare I say, pretty damned tasty, with a delicate texture and honeyed note. Far and above were the figs dotting the tomato sauce, jammy and rich. They soaked up the sauce and enhanced the sweetness of the meat.Austen’s pan-roasted duck breast, cooked to a lush, pink medium-rare, was paired with two bold, sweet sides, sweet potato puree and apple gremolata, with broccoli rabe to balance out the fruitier flavors. The flavors complemented the chill of the wintry weather outside and utilized the fruit well, although the apples disappeared amidst the rich potatoes when eaten together.For dessert, we split a small charcuterie plate, with culatello, the richer, heftier brother of proscuitto, and casatica di bufala cheese, a mild Italian sheep’s milk number. The presentation, with grapes and a ramekin of honey, was downright indulgent.We also shared an order of ricotta beignets alongside a blueberry lavender coulis, although the floral notes in the lavender were difficult to detect. The beignets were vexingly difficult to photograph, but remained hot and tender during their photo shoot, with a gentle milky flavor.I liked Ken and Cook a lot- there was a little flair to its ambiance and service that was charming and convivial, and cocktails so good that I forgot everything about them, and the food was hearty and nuanced. It has a little ways to go before it can truly rise to the upper ranks of New York’s best raw bars, but I’m confident it can do so with time.
Disclaimer: We paid 25% of the bill, plus tip, and the remainder was generously comped.