Last week I was talking with a friend about great food on the Vineyard, and he had mentioned the Chef’s Tasting at Red Cat Kitchen at Ken’n’Beck.
I remember back in the day that Chef Ben deForest had done tastings at Balance, but I didn’t realize that he was doing them at Red Cat as well. Knowing this, it was time to do a little research for myself on this. Sometimes my job is really tough.
I made a reservation, since it’s summer and Red Cat is usually packed for dinner. On a side note, my reservation was under “Food Critic.” I felt very official and couldn’t help but smile to myself.
Granted a little loud sometimes, but at least it’s good music, and it works. There was a great mix of summer people and locals. The place felt alive and exciting, and I was excited to be there.
The list of cocktails looked amazing, especially the Lazy John Daly, made with Green Mountain Organic Lemon Vodka, Lazy 8 Black Tea Vodka, fresh squeezed lemonade, and soda water – sounds so yummy!
However since I was working I went the Sacha Lichine Rosé, (Rosé seems to be my drink of choice this summer). Delicious and refreshing of course, and a great way to sit back and take in the scene.
The menu at Red Cat has a lot to offer, and you can see that each thing has Ben written all over it. Ben is known for being adventurous with his flavor pairings, and is not shy about straying away mixing things up.
Also, he loves using local foods when he cooks. You can tell that since the menu I was looking at was number 22 of the season. Love that – talk about keeping food exciting!
Though tempted by so many things, like the Buttermilk Fried Chicken or the Pan Roasted Island Sea Bass, I had to go with the “Tastings from Ben’s Imagination.” This is on the menu, towards the bottom. Just look for the red stars, and you can’t miss it. It’s $10 per person, per course. I was planning to go with three, but Cara talked me in to four.
Why the Chef’s Tasting?
The best thing about a chef’s tasting is that you have no idea what is coming your way. Will it be meat, vegetarian, fish, something totally off the wall that would scare me. The anticipation and the not knowing makes it a little more adventurous than your typical meal.
For starters, I would never think to fry a fish this fresh, but somehow the batter seemed to enhance the flavor. It was melt in your mouth amazing! I couldn’t get enough. I practically inhaled it!
I searched the menu for something like it so I could have it again, but there was nothing. Oh well, at least I was able to experience it at least once.
The fish was so tasty, and in the mix you’d find “expensive cheese” and bits of preserved lemon (made in-house as well). Even the tarter sauce was amazing, more lemony than overwhelmed with mayo and so light. I consumed every last bit of it, which is strange, since I am a cocktail sauce kind of girl.
What would dazzle my palatte next? The third course was Gnocchi for Adelaide. One of Ben’s signature dishes. This fresh made gnocchi with ricotta was served with a quasi alfredo sauce. I say quasi because it’s Ben’s interpretation of the sauce, which was lighter and yet so tasty.
There with the freshest Spring peas that added a little snap to the dish. The gnocchi was like butter, and just melted in your mouth. There were pieces of lobster and fresh chives, and it was just plain remarkable. At this point, I was starting to get really full, but I was committed to four courses so I had to keep going.
The final course was Swordfish, topped with onion rings (which I wanted from the menu so I was thrilled), roasted brussel sprouts, parm cheese all served on a bed of sweet corn risotto. Do I even need to tell you how good this was?
The addition of the brussel sprouts and cheese was perfect. I can’t believe how good cheese is with fish! I was so full, but I had to eat it all. You could taste all the different ingredients. The sweetness of the corn, the sharpness of the cheese, simply delicious.
Wow was all I could say at the end. I loved that the tasting had a seafood theme. Ben loves to cook with fish, and his talent came through on the details of each dish. So fresh and surprising and light even though a lot of it was fried, nothing felt heavy just delicious.
I think Cara said it best, “The fish that Ben uses was most likely swimming this morning, and gnocchi were potatoes this morning.” It seems as though this chef is really happy and is in love with cooking, it shows.
Red Cat Kitchen is open seven nights a week from 6 p.m. until late (chef’s time choice). Located at the end of Kennebec Avenue in Oak Bluffs, the restaurant is small but anything from ordinary.
If you feel like heading there for dinner, I would try to get a reservation, especially this time of year. And I highly recommend the “Tastings from Ben’s Imagination.” Red Cat will be staying open until New Year’s Eve, so there is plenty of try Ben’s food.
In case you were wondering why it’s Gnocchi for Adelaide, it’s Ben’s six-year old daughter who loves to make gnocchi. I love that she is in the kitchen already, and perhaps we have another talented chef in the works.
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