When I had heard that Ben deForest was taking over the kitchen at Ken’N’ Beck, I had mixed feelings. The Vineyard’s own “bad boy” chef coming back to Oak Bluffs. What was he going to do with that small, quirky little restaurant?
Naturally, curiosity got the best of me, and I reached out to Ben, asking if I could stop by to talk with him about this new endeavor and take a look around. He told me to stop on by. I was there the very next day.
On the outside, the restaurant looks the same, but on the inside, it has been “Benified.” Walking in, I was greeted by the music of Ben Harper, familiar Rez Williams paintings adorn the walls (which I love), and the space has a different vibe, a cooler vibe that Ken ‘N’ Beck on its own didn’t have. I have to clarify that it is still Ken ‘N’Beck but it’s now The Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘N’ Beck. For those who have been follwoing Ben’s career on Martha’s Vineyard, there was a Red Cat year’s ago in West Tisbury that was wildly popular.
After taking in the new sights, I sat at the bar where Megan was making drinks for other guests. She was engaging and fun to talk with. She’s been bartending for six years and knows her stuff. She’s the kinda gal that wants to make you something unexpected and fabulous, but I was boring and sampled from the specialty cocktails menu. It was tough to choose what to drink.
Do I have a Love Machine, a Parsley Gin Julip, a Katie Holmes, an Edie Falco perhaps? Ah decisions. What are all these fun sounding drinks, you may ask? Well, you’ll just have to stop by to find out. I finally settled on a Green Hornet which has pisco, lime, lemon, and tonic – it was tart and delicious — just what I wanted. The things I must do for this blog. Seriously though, the drink menu is creative and fun, and that little bar there, is and has always been, a little gem. Definitely stop by for a cocktail – Megan makes a mean one.
Now that I felt at home, it was time to talk to Ben. He has a cozy little kitchen, and he loves it. When I asked him why he decided to partner with Ken ‘N’ Beck, he simply said it’s about timing. The timing was right for this, and it felt right. He loves that the space is quirky and unleveled, and it felt like he had come home.
So, it seemed natural to call his new kitchen Red Cat because those were some of the best times of his life. He was happy and inspired. He’s in that space again. This Ben deForest, dare he say it….is happy. He’s engaged to the lovely Sarah Omer, who is also his partner in this new venture, and his passion for cooking has been reignited. And you can tell by the menu and by tasting his food, Ben is back in a big way.
The inspiration for his cooking is ADD (attention deficit disorder) and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream – how I can’t tell you. That’s just what he told me. Chefs seem to have their own interpretation of things. In his kitchen, his studio as he calls it, he is constantly changing the menu. In the 70 days he’s been open, the menu has had 33 modifications. He calls it the “evolution” of his cooking. New fresh ingredients and life inspires him to cook different things.
The menu I saw was full of delciousness! From Barrel Cut Steak from New York Strip, to Roasted Rack of Expat Lamb, to Local Bluefish , and if you’re feeling daring, there’s Today’s Caught Vineyard Striped Bass, Imagined!?!? There’s also OB Styled BBQ’d Spare Ribs, and a White Trash Burger, Cheap Bun & Fries.
For starters, there is foie gras, crispy oysters, gnocchi, and the most delicious Yellowfin tuna tartar I’ve ever had which was served with watermelon, shaved celery and was super tasty. I also tried the Island Fresca, vine-ripened tomatoes, corn, basil, in a corn broth with reggiano. Ben has been making this for years and one taste and you can see why. Somethings are just perfect.
When people come to dine at Red Cat at Ken ‘N’ Beck, don’t expect a traditional dining experience. It’s definitely different from the two Balance(s), and other things Ben deForest has been involved in. For me, I liked the new vibe of the restaurant, and I was really impressed with the food. It seems as though Ben is in a really good place in his life and that’s truly reflected in his food.
The Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘N’ Beck is located on Kennebec Ave in Oak Bluffs. They’re open seven nights a week for dinner, and reservations are suggested. Stop by at least once this Summer, I think you’ll be glad you did.