523 Ninth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
(212) 947-4208

Normally, I would have walked across town, but it was drizzling, so I sucked it up and spent the $2 to take the Shuttle. Things were looking up as I walked past the woman in Grand Central singing opera. I got a Shuttle right away and was on the west side in no time. Then it started pouring. A sign of things to come.

I met Mr. Dogz near Times Square and we headed to HK. HK sits on 39th and Ninth, right on the crap-line between Chelsea and Hells Kitchen, across the street from old-school tenements and down the block from a soup kitchen where homeless people use the corner phone booth as a urinal. Is seediness part of the neighborhood appeal? At least there's a flea market ten feet away every weekend.

HK itself is like an oasis of coolness amidst the grunge. Walking in, the club music thumps. Though the restaurant itself is dark and subdued, the decor is bright and clean, allowing the tea lights that pepper the tables to give off more light than one would otherwise think. The wait staff all wear black from head to toe and the list of custom cocktails is a pretty good size. The walls look like they're on runners and can raise open in the summer, which is a nice touch. Alas, that's about all HK has going for it. Trendiness and being yet another Cafeteria clone does not a good restaurant make.

The brunch menu looked pretty good, and I returned later to try that meal, but honestly, I just can't recommend dinner here. The waiter, who I think was the only person on staff that day, was almost never around. He would constantly vanish for extended periods of time, from seating us to giving us the check. We ordered drinks during the happy hour period, but were billed the full price. My martini (gin, wet, three olives), was passable and lacked an olive.

Neither myself nor Dogz was particularly hungry, so we decided to split an appetizer. We waffled between the Mussels Provencale or the Calamari Frites. We went for the Calamari Frites, which are served with a Thai chili dipping sauce. These were very good. They weren't too breaded or too chewy. They were, in a word, perfect. But that's where the meal peaked.

I ordered the Roast Herb Chicken entree with whipped potatoes and spinach. It's a standard and I tend to use it as a gauge of what a kitchen can churn out. In this case, the Hells kitchen churned out a mediocre dish. The meat was tender, but tasteless. With the skin, which was soggy, it was boring. If you're on a health kick and were to eat it without the skin, then your taste buds will really be out of luck. The whipped potatoes, despite the name, didn't taste smooth enough to be whipped.

Dogz ordered the Wild Mushroom Ravioli, served with arugula and sun-dried tomatoes. Dogz thought that the filling was tasty, but couldn't put his finger on what the part of the meal turned him off. He tossed one onto my plate so I could figure it out. I think they're undercooked, I said. That's what it is, he concurred. Some people prefer their pasta al dente. This wasn't al dente.

The dessert menu came when the table was cleared and we decided not to bother. The desserts were pretty standard but expensive. For example, a bowl of Haagen Dazs ice cream (assorted flavors) cost $8. I'd rather go to the bodega across the street and get two pints. While I can't argue that it was kinda fun listening to the table of Chelsea-ites next to us talk about their adventures in Fellatioland, it was just too hard to justify getting dessert merely to stick around and eavesdrop on a sordid conversation.

But like I said, the brunch menu looked pretty good, so I figured I'd go back. I wound up by myself on a Saturday around 1pm. For the record, I hate eating alone. I always feel like a complete loser. I know that there are some out there who enjoy the privacy. I'm not one of them. But a critic's gotta do what a critic's gotta do.

I ordered a coffee and the HK Eggs Benedict, which was a standard eggs Benedict, but with spinach, grilled red peppers, portobello mushrooms, and blue cheese sprinkle over the Hollandaise sauce. It was served alongside home-fried potatoes. At first, I really liked the dish, but by the time I got through half of it, I was enjoying it way way less. I think that the tang of the peppers, combined with the sharpness of the spinach, combined with the bite of the blue cheese was just too much. The Hollandaise sauce itself has some sourness, and this was just too overpowering. Maybe you'll like it, but I would have rather had a regular eggs Benedict. I probably would have liked it more. The potatoes, by the way, should have been excellent, but they were undercooked and tough. The coffee was standard-tasting, thin diner coffee. Weak.

My waitress this afternoon was the saving grace of the meal. Aside from the fact that she was incredibly beautiful, something shallow guys like me notice, she was also incredibly nice and warm and attentive. Far better than the waiter from dinner.

Here's an odd thing. If you go to HK for dinner, credit cards are fine. But during brunch hours, it's cash only. I found this out the hard way having no cash on me at all. Fortunately, there's an ATM downstairs by the bathrooms. But still, that added an extra few bucks onto my bill in ATM fees.

Two cocktails, an appetizer, and two entrees came to just under $75 including tax and tip.

My lonely brunch for one weighed in at over $20 with tax and tip, not counting the charges I paid to the ATM and will have to pay to my bank for using said ATM.

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