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When Kenmare opens officially tonight, it will not be for the party people. Instead, management is building its reputation as a serious restaurant. Which is only notable because it’s being run by Nur Khan and Paul Sevigny, two night owls best known as the men behind the Rose Bar and Beatrice Inn, respectively.
But there are a few things working in their favor: first, their partnership in Kenmare with Lou Ceruzzi, a co-owner of the acclaimed Sfoglia, and second, the appointment of chef Joey Campanaro, whose talents kept his previous employers, Little Owl and Market Table, consistently booked. Khan and Sevigny hope the toque can help transform their project into an equally, if not more, profitable neighborhood joint. “Joey was the first person we wanted,” says Khan, sitting in a back booth one afternoon. “We’re just so excited [he’s on board]. I think that statement alone says how serious we are about being a restaurant.” (Khan does seem serious enough about Kenmare’s culinary rep. Sevigny’s failure to show up for the interview despite repeated calls and texts doesn’t bode as well for his intentions, though he says he wasn’t told about the meeting. He was reached via phone the following day.)
The menu at Kenmare will include dishes such as gravy meatball sliders, basil gnocchi with short rib ragout and sea scallops with strawberry and spinach salad. “I don’t think my food is very pretentious at all,” Campanaro says.
That’s partly why Khan thinks it will work in lower SoHo, where both he and Sevigny live. “I know this neighborhood and what works down here,” he says. In fact, Khan had wanted to open Kenmare, which is in the space formerly occupied by Civetta, since 2006, but couldn’t get his hands on the lease.
Sevigny, too, long had wanted to run an eatery. “A restaurant was always much more a dream of mine than DJing or nightlife,” he says, pointing out that he tried to merge the two pursuits. “Contrary to popular belief, we did serve food at the Beatrice. Agathe Snow [artist and widow of Dash Snow] was our head chef.”
It appears Kenmare is only the beginning for the duo.Sevigny says the two plan to open more restaurants, nightclubs and even hotels. “We have a very exciting space we’re working on right now,” he adds. “Hopefully within a month or two it’s going to be open, and people will forget the Beatrice ever existed.”
For now, there are signs the owners are sticking to their guns when it comes to establishing Kenmare as a restaurant first. That downstairs space, where Daphne Guinness, Jefferson Hack and Sevigny’s sister, Chloë, let loose during fashion week? It won’t be open for business until the upstairs is running smoothly.
“We don’t want anybody to be distracted,” Khan says.