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Amanda Cohen Taps Her Inner Charlie Sheen at Kenka

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New York City is home to a lot of restaurants, more than any rational human being can ever hope to visit. Among that number are hidden gems the majority of New Yorkers just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share with us their under the radar recommendations for Dining Confidential.


For our next selection, we turn to Amanda Cohen, the chef and owner of the sinfully delicious East Village vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy.

"The crush of college kids waiting for tables is off-putting, it's been around for so long that it's no longer cool and has become practically invisible, but Kenka on St. Mark's Place is a New York City original and it's where I take friends when I don't want another *yawn* white tablecloth joint serving seasonal and organic whatevers. Eating at Kenka is like going on a road trip with Charlie Sheen when he's just cashed his last Two and a Half Men check, he's pumped full of tiger blood and his gun collection is in the back seat: you're either going to have the best time ever or require years of therapy to sort it all out.

Sometimes I go to a restaurant for the food, but sometimes I want to go somewhere for the fun, and while the food at Kenka ranges from "meh" to "edible + 1" you're really here because the beer costs $1.50, you can insist that someone at your table order the bull's penis or the turkey testicles and then goad them into gnawing on those gristly appendages (always fun to watch), and at any minute an NYU student might throw up near or on your table. I'll take college barf over listening to the people next to me talk about their Hamptons summer share any day.

A few tips: never order the sushi or sashimi, things that are grilled are better, beg them to leave the bonito flakes off or every single one of your dishes will come covered in a big autumn leaves pile of them, and always use the cotton candy machine on your way out - it brings good luck. I think a lot of people who regard themselves as foodies would rather die than go to Kenka, but those are largely the same people who think that it's wicked cool to hear Arcade Fire on their restaurant sound system of choice. Yes, granddad, that is "radical." Get back to me when you're blasting Japanese marching songs on toddler-sized loudspeakers and decorating your menus with samurai getting their stomachs sliced open and schoolgirls making it with octopi. When I'm in a retirement home unable to feed myself or change the channel, a lot of restaurant memories are going to blur into one long night of small plates and Edison bulbs, but I'm always going to remember Kenka."
—Gary Wong
· Previous Editions of Dining Confidential [~ENY~]
· Kenka [Yelp]


25 Saint Marks Pl., New York, NY 10003