Thursday, October 24, 2013


A while ago, we all went out for Cheese's birthday. He picked Kenka which is a good place for large groups with lots of small plates to share. So we looked over the vast menu (with pictures so there was no language barrier) and ordered away.
We started out with grilled hamachi kama (yellowtail collar). This collar was larger in size than any other collar that I've had before. I was happily surprised. Fatty, crispy skinned fish. We picked at it slowly until only bones were left.

For the more adventurous, this is tako wasabi (raw octopus with wasabi - $3.50). Chewy pieces of octopus with a big punch of wasabi flavor. I've had this dish elsewhere before and it was better prepared elsewhere.
Edamame (soy beans - $1) for some greens. It came cold to the table. Not good eats.
These are ika geso kara age (deep fried squid legs - $4.50) which were light and crispy. The squid was not chewy at all and was actually quite nice.
Cheese wanted something a little more filling so he ordered the Toro Don (rice bowl with tuna - ~$7). A deep bowl filled with lots of chopped raw tuna garnished with scallions, seaweed, daikon radish, and other herbs. I didn't try this but he said he enjoyed it very much.
An order of shumai (steamed pork dumplings - $4.50) was just okay. Not a lot of flavor going on with these. It needed a lot of soy sauce.
Kara Age (fried chicken - $6) is always a crowd favorite. Lightly battered dark meat chicken fried until crispy. These came super hot and freshly fried to the table.
I think this is buta kimchee (pan fried pork with kimchee - $5.50) which was more unfermented cabbage than either kimchi or pork. A pass next time.
This is chicken skin yakitori which were slightly crispy but wasn't rendered quite nearly enough. Parts of it were still a bit rubbery. But overall, who doesn't like some crispy chicken skin?
For another grilled dish, we had the shake no hara (grilled salmon belly - $6.50). This was tender, flaky, and well cooked. Seasoned well too. I enjoyed it.
French fries ($3) with ketchup and mayo. Mediocre.
The deep fried garlic sounded much better than what actually came. It was just like roasted garlic with cloves of caramelized goodness. Too bad there wasn't any bread to eat it with.
The fried gyoza (pork dumpling - $4.50) was decent. Crispy skins filled with ground pork.
The yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls - $3.50) were quite nice too. Crispy grilled outside, and soft tender rice inside.
If that wasn't enough, we also ordered a yakitori special with meatballs, pork belly, squid, chicken, and more. This is a great deal and really good for sharing.
The toro toro yaki (grilled fatty tuna - $6.50) came in a bowl with sauce. It definitely wasn't what I was expected. This tuna was cooked all the way through and was a bit dry. It was basically a well done tuna steak. Not good eats. I wouldn't order it again.
Nommables wasn't quite satisfied enough so he ordered a couple more things to eat. Steak beef steak sliced thin. I didn't try any but he seemed to enjoy it.
And he also ordered the hotate butter (grilled scallops in butter - $4.50). This dish looks like a smiley face. And that was what Nommables' face looked like. Just smiling and happy.
After dinner, everyone gets a thimble of sugar to place into the cotton candy machine up front. It's fun and a sweet ending to the night.

Overall, I enjoyed Kenka. It's not the best food for Japanese food on St. Marks but it does provide a good atmosphere for loud hungry groups. I'd go back especially to watch someone do the jumbo curry challenge. That's 4 lbs of curry and rice which needs to be eaten within 20 minutes. And my friend did it in 12.5 minutes. It was disgusting.

25 St Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-6363


  1. Thanks for coming out and celebrating my birthday!

    I liked just about everything, yeah the toro toro yaki was a bit over done, and the garlic was a let down (along with a pain in the ass to get out of the bulb), but everything else was great.

    Next time we all need to do mugs of Sapporo since those come out cheaper than the silly 3x as costly pitchers.

  2. I haven't been to kenka in years but used to go often- the seafood/pork pancake with bonito flakes ontop was always a must, along with that yellow tail collar, the grilled rice balls, hot pots in the winter, and some sashimi. Always cheap and unique eats!

    1. I went back to Kenka a few weeks later and had the okonomyaki (seafood/pork pancake). It was good.


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