Where casual meets elegance: Kettle Black Kitchen officially opens on Monroe Street
Chef and owner Brian Hamilton is taking his cherished, early family memories to his restaurant, Kettle Black Kitchen.
Years before Brian Hamilton started running his own restaurant, he was learning how to make pâté de campagne, a terrine made of pork, bacon, cream and eggs, with his grandmother.
“I think most people who enjoy cooking enjoy something about the process, the smells, the texture,” he says.
That’s exactly what Hamilton experienced as a kid and the idea that he infuses into his business, Kettle Black Kitchen.
After a year selling meal kits to Madisonians and a three-month setback, Hamilton is opening the doors to Kettle Black Kitchen at 1835 Monroe St. Thursday.
“It’s a big deal,” he says. “I’ve been dealt a couple major league curveballs as far as the time is concerned. I was supposed to be open three months ago, and now I’m opening.”
Hamilton’s restaurant is focused on taking the fond memories of cooking with family at home to the next level. Kettle Black Kitchen focuses on balancing innovative dishes and comfort foods, such as French onion soup (previously sold as a meal kit) and pan-seared halibut with roasted fingerling potatoes, mushrooms and Vermouth beurre blanc.
To create the menu, Hamilton drew from other past experiences. He was born in New York and has traveled the world cooking, including co-owning a bar in Copenhagen, Denmark for some time. He attributes his “cooking cultural heritage” to French and Tennessean roots borne by his grandmother and mother.
Kettle Black Kitchen’s menu has dishes like grilled flat iron steak with caramelized onions and sweet potato medallions and a roasted Cornish hen with rice stuffing and a beer and thyme gravy, a twist on a chicken-and-gravy dish he makes for his wife Alicia and three kids.
“I guess I’m pretty darn proud of that because I had to learn how to bone out Cornish hen on the fly, and now I’m pretty good at it,” he says.
The vegan escarole and beans dish on the menu was taken straight from the menu at his father’s restaurant in the suburbs of New York. For dessert, he makes trifle ice cream with cookies, candied nuts, salted caramel, raspberries and whipped cream, along with a soft chocolate cookie sandwich, made with coconut vanilla ice cream and Wonderstate coffee or mixed custard.
Hamilton didn’t want the menu to overwhelm visitors. There are plenty of other items he loves to cook that could have been added, but he is confident his best dishes are the ones that feel most familiar to him. For him, the beauty of food is the simplicity of ingredients.
“My whole life I’ve been working at night,” he says. “I’ve always kind of wanted to do more family dinners than I was ever able to do.”
In anticipation of opening the doors, Hamilton says he hopes everyone enjoys the entire dining experience from front to end.
“I want people to come in and say, ‘Wow, it’s really nice,’ but not be afraid to touch anything,” he says. “I don’t want people to be scared to walk in because the place looks too fancy.”
The interior itself is rustic with walls adorned with industrial fixtures. Above the tables are chandeliers that flicker a lambent glow. Hamilton credits his partnership with Josh Harty and Jess Parvin of Jess Parvin Designs for translating his “somewhat scattered thoughts” into his dream of creating a “casual, elegant” atmosphere.
Running his own restaurant is a whole new kind of gamble for Hamilton, but just like the pâté he prepared in his early childhood, he’s ready for the challenge.
“It’s always beautiful when people authentically love what you’re doing. It’s risky, which has always kind of interested me,” he says.
While outdoor seating is not available at this time, Hamilton plans to apply for outdoor capabilities. Kettle Black Kitchen is open three days a week.
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