Like the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. In the case of KTCHN, if you don’t like the innuendos, don’t bother. Because if you can get past the vowel-less, text message-y looking name, it’s worth a venture to this fab new spot in Hell’s Kitchen, smack in the middle of The Out, NYC’s first “straight-friendly” gay hotel.
Past the alien-like lobby, the less-formal front dining room is bright, white and contemporary. With its floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s perfect for people-watching on 42nd Street. The back dining room is more formal, dimmer and darker, with communal tables running through the center.
Executive Chef Dale Schnell (Setai New York, Artisanal) is at the helm at KTCHN, and the two owners of Eatery and Whym are also partial owners, so expect a comfort food slant on “new American classics.”
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After cocktails (try the “Steaming Hot,” created by mixologist Duane Fernandez Jr., which blends Serrano chili-infused Russian standard vodka, St. Germain and lime juice, topped with sparkling wine), start with the quinoa cubes with piquillo aioli ($6), and you’ll never look at the gritty grain the same way again. Spicy tempura green beans with toasted almond dip ($6) are crunchy and sweet and the Sexy Fries ($6) are like salt and vinegar chips in french-fry form. (Sexy? Maybe. Salty? Definitely. But it’s not to be missed.)
Don’t overlook the baby arugula salad either, with pickled watermelon, feta, watermelon radish and 20-year sherry vinegar ($11), or the slow-cooked Amish chicken breast with sunchokes, arugula and organ emulsion ($22). Worth sharing are the chilled seafood tasting (calamari, lobster rolls, rock shrimp ceviche, $29) and the vegetarian tajine ($38).
The restaurant is open until 1 a.m. on the weekends, which should appeal to guests, Hell’s Kitchen locals and party boys looking for a bite before or after XL (the mega-sized dance and cabaret club). No matter the night, the crowd or the hour, it’s easy to anticipate one hot KTCHN. Srsly.
Plan a night out in the gay-borhood
Evan Porter, bartender at Hell’s Kitchen’s laid-back wine bar Ardesia, took us to some of his favorite haunts:
(348 West 52nd)
Sleek yet comfortable, Therapy is his choice for a relaxed happy hour. “I’ve never had a bad conversation in here,” he says, adding that it rarely gets too crowded.
(355 W. 52nd St.)
Across the street, Industry creates a cozier mood, with windowless nooks appointed with with vintage couches. “It’s where you go to end your evening,” Porter says.
(793 Ninth Ave.)
It’s not only the best-named bar on the block, it’s also the most universally appealing. “Everyone would be happy here,” says Porter of the Hell’s Kitchen honky-tonk. Be sure to hold on to your drink during the bar-top boot-scooting.