Except for Kenneth is an unusual name for a restaurant but if you’ve seen their local advertisements, you’d understand and have a good laugh too. Located on Ottawa Street, the restaurant sits beside its sister restaurant Black Sheep Snack Bar and other local favourites like Canon Coffee and Southern Smoke BBQ House. The space is small with about 30-35 seats. Decor is a collection of eclectic and vintage items with a sailor theme against muted teal walls. Located in the East end of Hamilton, the area is being rejuvenated by new restaurants like Black Sheep and Except for Kenneth. You can also find an interesting collection of vintage stores, hobby stores, bakeries, salons, clothing stores, and the first location of Tim Hortons! It’s a bit out of the way but not far enough for me to explore. It’s also in the same area as the beautiful Gage Park.
Except for Kenneth’s menu used to be heavily inspired by South American and Asian flavours. It was time for a change and they revamped the menu to include a lot of comfort food. A huge group of Hamilton foodies decided to check it out! Chef Matt was awesome enough to host our gathering and prepare all the entrees and some sides for us to share. Altogether, there were 17 of us enjoying the food! Except for Kenneth and all its sister restaurants have been on my Hamilton-restaurants-to-check-out list for a long time and when this opportunity popped up, I jumped on it.
We unknowingly and happily started our scrumptious dinner that quickly turned into a medieval feast for kings. It was an intense, stomach-stretching session for my body. The first dishes consisted of Broccoli Caesar Salad and Chicken Breast Stuffed Prosciutto on Quinoa Salad. The dressing on the Caesar salad was classic and they gave it a twist with the broccoli. They were small florets that blended nicely with the other leafy greens. The stuffed chicken was cooked and seasoned beautifully. Tender bites of chicken on a bed of tomato, cucumber, sugar snap peas, basil, and quinoa. The salad complemented so well with the chicken, it was like they were destined to be together. The quinoa was light, refreshing, and was loaded with fresh flavours. It was already an impressive start to the night and it got me super excited for the next dishes.
Once the starters were cleared, we were greeted by Local Mushroom Lasagna and Ken’s Shepherd’s Pie. The lasagna was rich in goat’s cheese, cut with a tart tomato sauce, and layered high with meaty mushrooms between the pasta. It looked simple but it tasted like it had complex flavours mixed in. I loved every bite. Ken’s Shepherd’s Pie came in a shallow dish with a thin layer of ground meat and a super rich topping of creamy mashed potatoes and cheese. The dish was a bit underwhelming and the mash was too thick and creamy for my liking. It left a heavy richness in my mouth and I needed a lot of water to wash it down.
The next dishes were the remainder of the entrees and they were all meat platters. Duck Confit, Slow-Roasted Porchetta, Beef Ribs, Braised Lamb Shank, Duck Fat Roasted Potatoes, and Fries tossed with percorino, truffle, and herbs. This basically resembled a Flintstones’ feast with giant-ass dinosaur bones included. I honestly have nothing negative to say about this pile of meat and potatoes. They also came with a refreshing apple slaw to balance the carnivorous dishes. This was the best Duck Confit I’ve ever had. The meat was tender, salty, and full of ducky flavour. The Porchetta was paired with a mustard sauce and it happily disintegrated in my mouth. The beef ribs fell off the bone with the juices pooling on the plate. And the Lamb Shanks were beautifully moist, served with caramelized tomatoes, onions, and rosemary. Pair any type of meat with a stewed tomato mixture and everybody will be happy. I wish I could’ve mopped up all the juices and licked the plate clean. I’d definitely do that at home but I don’t think it’s socially acceptable to do it in public yet.
Lastly, I want to talk about the fries. These were absolutely the best fries I’ve ever munched on. The herb truffle fries were immensely extraordinary. I’m not sure if the truffle elevated the potatoes or the juices from the meats added all the flavours but something was excellent about them! Then there were the duck fat roasted potatoes. I’ve heard the hype about duck fat fries a year ago but when I tried them at WVRST, they were disappointing. Nothing separated them from regular fries, plus they were on the soggy side. After that boring experience, I didn’t think they were all that special… until I met Except for Kenneth’s roasted duck fat potatoes. They brought these wedges of potatoes to a whole new world of crunch. Throughout our dinner, they didn’t lose their crispy exterior! I was thoroughly impressed by the skull-vibrating-crunch.
As you might already know, I had great difficulty jamming all of this delicious food down my throat and into my teeny stomach but our meal wasn’t over yet. We still had dessert – Sugar Pie! Fortunately, it was small enough for me to put away. I’m just glad I didn’t hurl.
There are a lot of comforting and filling dishes from the kitchen at Except for Kenneth and I can’t wait to check out their sister restaurants. It’s a great place to check out for a casual and satisfying dinner or a quick bite-to-eat for lunch. I left tonight’s dinner on a high note – a full belly, happy taste buds, and an amazing night shared with an awesome group of food lovers. To the lovely people of Hamilton, thanks for such a great night!