This season, Oak Bluffs restaurant Ken n’ Beck has brought in well-known Island chef, Ben Deforest. Ben has revived the popular “Red Cat” name, retitling the restaurant “The Red Cat Kitchen at Ken n’ Beck.” Located at the bottom of Kennebec Ave in Oak Bluffs, the small building has a cozy, quirky feel, featuring paintings by local artists Rez Williams and Traeger Di Pietro, among others, with tables both inside and on the screened-in porch.
The Red Cat’s menu changes frequently, sometimes day by day, but a few items seem to be staples, like the White Trash Burger. Served on a “cheap bun” with pickles, American cheese and a side of fries, the burger is bigger than a slider, but still small enough to be considered a bar snack. Well-seasoned and juicy, it tastes like the best kind of back yard cookout burger. Together with thin and crispy fries reminiscent of the type found in fast-food joints, the White Trash Burger is perfect when you are just craving a good simple burger.
We’re suckers for Basil Gimlets, and the Red Cat mixes up an excellent version. Made with Crystal Head vodka, muddled basil, lime and sugar, it has a great balance of sweet, tart, and the bright garden flavor of fresh basil.
The Seared Big-Ass Sea Scallops are another signature dish that tends to stay on the menu. Served on top of a bed of sweet corn risotto, with a drizzle of basil oil, they were perfectly cooked, with a deep sear on the outside and tender inside. The risotto had just the right amount of chew and the corn flavor echoed the scallops’ natural sweetness.
The Beef Tartare had a surprising range of flavors. The chopped beef was rich and tender, pickled onions brought a sharpness, while chunks of carrots provided some sweetness and a hint of heat from the horseradish créme. Topped with tangy Parmesan cheese and served on top of crusty bread slices, it had a pleasing variety of textures.
The Island Fresca is like putting the essence of summer into a bowl. The soup is made with a sweet summer corn broth and features chunks of ripe tomatoes, corn and basil, sprinkled with Reggiano cheese. These summer crops are simply prepared, allowing you to really taste each individual ingredient and enjoy their freshness.
Sometimes the Red Cat has a steak on the menu, sometimes not. This particular night it was a New York Strip topped with onion rings, served with a cherry tomato salad and mashed potatoes. The thick slab of meat was beautifully cooked, pink on the inside and extremely juicy. The tomato salad was a welcome addition, with its vibrant “viney” flavor and just a hint of dressing. We found the onion rings to be particularly good for soaking up the juices left on the plate.
This tartare was made of chunks of Copper River Salmon, beets and the unsuspected addition of watermelon. Combined with a creamy yet light sauce, this amuse-bouche was way better than we expected it to be. Next time someone wants to add melon to your salmon, maybe you should let them.
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