A First Glimpse at Whisk’s Menu at Wink & Nod
Chef Jeremy Kean talks about his approach to modern bar food.
Wink & Nod created even more buzz last week when they revealed that pop-up restaurant darlings Jeremy Kean and Philip Kruta of Whisk would be heading up the dining program at the new South End speakeasy. The restaurant will technically be called Whisk at Wink & Nod, with both sides locked into a fully autonomous partnership.
“We have full control over our kitchen and our staff,” says Kean. “We’re still our own bosses. We told them, ‘we want to collaborate with you guys, but we don’t want to work for you.’ We don’t work for anybody, that’s why we started this thing.“
Kean and Kruta were approached about the collaboration in early February, but nothing was finalized until the end of the month. With little more than two weeks to create the menu, Kean and Kruta will roll out their culinary vision in two parts. For their opening, the two chefs will focus on a 13-item a la carte menu, featuring the same avant-garde techniques that have shaped their menus at Whisk. Later, in mid-April, they’ll unveil a 6 to 8 item tasting menu with Scotch, wine, and cocktail pairings.
“With the bar menu, we just wanted to do really cool, young food,” says Kean. “We’re interested in taking food you might have seen in the ’20s and ’30s and elevating it.”
One dish is a heightened version of something they played with at 351 Hanover Street in the North End, the site of their longest standing tenure at any one brick-and-mortar. Kean dresses scallop crudo with foie gras and lime vinaigrette, then places it on top of kumquat puree, a shiso leaf, and black crumbs made from foie gras fat and squid ink.
Other options include their signature black pasta with red miso, baby octopus, and cauliflower two ways [roasted florets and cauliflower puree] and the “Fresh Twinkie.” For their version of the famous snack, the two chefs make the yellow batter to-order then stuff the spongey aftermath with brown butter cream.
The real crowd-pleaser, though, is sure to be the smoked quail yakitori. Whisk first brines the bird in cinnamon, then grills it on a skewer basted in Cutty Sark kabayaki. The Japanese eel sauce is made from scratch with blended Scotch, soy sauce, and eel bones. The grilled quail is then placed in a mason jar filled with cherrywood smoke.
“It’s a really fun dish,” says Kean. “We wanted to look out of the kitchen and see five or six jars being opened, with smoke billowing out from different parts of the dining room.”
Whisk is happy to be partnering with the Wink & Nod cocktail program and the two chefs seem particularly excited for their forthcoming, “game heavy” tasting menu. But with a collaboration like this almost unheard of in the restaurant industry, Kean is reluctant to say that Whisk has finally found a permanent home.
“I think this is going to be a good fit for us,” says Kean. “We really like the president [Euz Azevedo] of BNV [Boston Nightlife Ventures, Wink & Nod's restaurant management group]. By combining our skill-sets we can help expedite the success of both of our entities. I think what the future holds for the partnership, is just potential. These guys are growing fast and in that sense, we’d be growing alongside them and handling more and more projects. I don’t know if that’s what we’re looking for. We just don’t know. We’re happy to be here now and we’re going full throttle. In six months we’ll check back in and see what’s going on.”