Visited in June 2017
25 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
Kenka does not have a website, but here’s Yelp

 

Have you ever walked by a restaurant a million times, and every single time, there’s a crazy line out the door?  That’s Kenka.  Their doors open daily at 6pm, but lines begin to form as early as 5pm.  Kenka leaves a sign-in sheet outside their door so that they can seat in order of arrival.  We showed up at 5:40 and was number 19 on the waiting list.  Really?  19???  You have to think, must be crazy good!  Right???

Well, we were actually going for true yakitori that night, was going to make a visit to restaurant down the block, YAKITORI TAISHO, but figured, for the first time, we may have a not-so-horrendous wait to dine here, and went for it.  I think we would have been happier with true yakitori….

My strong belief is that Kenka is super popular for a these reasons:

  • A crazy menu that has EVERYTHING from yakitori, to savory cooked dishes, to shabu shabu, to sushi/sashimi
  • Incredibly low prices, INCREDIBLY LOW, and that extends to alcohol
  • The mysterious/naughty appeal (crazy full sized mannequin in sexual displays)
  • The hype that they’ve created themselves (by making people wait)

Bottom line, it’s a bit Japanese diner-ish.  You get a little of everything Japanese.

Here’s what we had:

  1. YAKITORI chicken – FANTASTIC!  So much of it too! 
  2. Beef tartar with an egg – Neither the beef, nor the egg was great… Don’t we usually do quail egg when it comes to being served raw???
  3. YAKITORI Octopus – Nice, but not much octopus flavors
  4. Grilled fish – Good, not great
  5. YAKITORI Frog – Had much higher expectations. This had zero taste
  6. Steak Tataki – Served in a ginger ponzu sauce, and topped with a whole lot of scallions. Too bad the steak was so severely overcooked
  7. Livers with veggies – Talk about being overcooked! Crazy!
  8. YAKITORI Scallop – The first and only dish that is not worth the cost! The quality of the scallop itself was poor, not fresh, and super chewy. 
  9. YAKITORI Pork Belly – Who doesn’t love fatty pork belly?  This one did not ANY flavor
  10. More YAKITORI Chicken – YES! This was the one and only dish that I would order again and again…

 

Overall Thoughts:

If you have zero time limitations, are on a budget, and not sure what you want, Kenka is the way!  Based on our primarily yakitori meal, with very little of other cuisines, my opinion is that Kenka is just OK, and despite being incredibly cheap, not worth the wait.  Sorry Kenka!