Or I could have titled this post, "Kitchen Not Very Keen at Keens."
Was excited to go to what sounded like a very old-school steakhouse serving wonderful steaks on par with the best in the city (the list, of course, is up to you). The old-school part of that is certainly true - dark, wooden, retro-fancy surroundings with old newspaper clippings framed on the walls and simple pipes covering the ceiling. Loved the creaky wooden steps covered in thick carpet, like someone's old mansion.
We already planned to get an order of the mutton chop and the NY sirloin to split among the two of us. A mention of the french fries being fried in beef fat on this board was good enough a reason for an order. Otherwise, I couldn't stomach paying $10.50 for sliced tomatoes or $8.50 for a few cooked carrots. Luckily, they serve a few cold carrot and celery sticks, a pickle and some olives along with blue cheese dressing at the beginning of the meal with the bread. Call us cheapskates, but hey, veggie side - for free! Also, this may be a minor quibble to some, but the butter slab was cold and thus unspreadable on the rolls. When we're paying $45+ for a plate of meat (and hell, $10 for some simply cooked veggies??), I would expect a higher end restaurant experience.
Too bad the execution at Keens was off, and off again. We ordered glasses of wine to start. When my Gamay came, it had particles floating on the surface. Cork? Whatever it was, it was all over the surface, clear to the eye even before I took a sip. We debated whether we should get a new glass or if we should somehow fish the particles out. But hey, I thought, if we're paying this much for a meal, they should be able to serve me a nice, clean glass of wine. Oh, also about the wine, we ordered two different ones by the glass. I thought it was unusual that the waiter just brought us two glasses of wine on a platter... shouldn't they bring us the wine bottles themselves, show us the labels, let us whiff and taste, then pour??
So I informed the waiter about the cork particles when he came to take our order. He says ok and proceeds to take our order. We ordered mutton and sirloin, both rare to medium-rare, with a side of fries. I like my meat pretty rare, but steakhouses have such varying standards, so I don't want a literally raw piece of meat served to me. Later on, he brings back my Gamay, this time all clean, thankfully. No real apology anywhere.
We wait a little, and our meal comes out pretty quickly. The mutton chop looks enormous, but that's mostly because there are two "wings" of gristle that spread out, making it look large. But they're still big and meaty with a big bone in the middle. Compared to the filet mignon, etc I saw on others' tables, the sirloin looked small (though of course it's probably still 3x the recommended amount of meat daily). Oh well, as long as it's good. I cut the sirloin in half so we could split it, but was shocked at how .... not-rare?... it was. It was pink in the middle, but still fully cooked through. This was what I would consider medium? I had even told the waiter the reasoning behind this strange "rare to medium-rare" order was because I was afraid of the kitchen overcooking a medium-rare. But there it was.
Taste-wise, the sirloin was good, but I couldn't help wishing it were at least a step or so less cooked. For background, I like my meat rare, but the bf wants medium-rare. This tasted a little too dry for MY tastes, which was super disappointing. Towards the end of the filet, I couldn't finish it because at that point, it was nearly medium-well.
The mutton chop was good, but not gamy. I guess I like gaminess, who doesn't want lamb that tastes like lamb??? What I'm saying is the taste wasn't strong. The bf thought it wasn't even that different from the beef. Now this was cooked properly, the pink mixing into a nice reddishness towards the middle. Too bad it wasn't so for the sirloin.
The fries were... a small plate of fries. Worth $8? Not so much, but I guess you need something with all that meat. Could have used more actual fries and fewer stubby crunchy pieces. I didn't really taste anything special about them though.
We ate everything clean and passed on the dessert, none of which sounded that interesting. The waiter said something like "not surprised you pass on dessert" or "wouldn't have expected you to order dessert.'' What does that mean? Because we ate everything? I guess most people take home doggybags? But still, I can't help but think he was implying we were pigs.
So we paid up and left, neither of us thrilled with the meal. We're probably never going to go back there again, as nothing really was so good that it is compelling. I guess the mutton chop is good but that's partially because, where else would you be able to get that? But the taste is more subtle than I expected, which could be a plus for some. All in all, was pretty disappointed because I wanted to like this place! So with all the errors I wouldn't expect at a more expensive place like this, I'll stick to places where I get more bang for my buck.
72 West 36th St., New York, NY 10018