You Are What You Eat: The Local Legend

Recently, we had the opportunity to spend a day on the set of Blue Ginger chef Ming Tsai’s cooking show Simply Ming. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you interviews and stories from our time at the show. Today, current Improper Bostonian cover boy and chef extraordinaire Ken Oringer talks to us about his favorite places to eat and why his empire has been expanding so quickly.

Name: Ken Oringer
Occupation: Chef/Restaurateur, Clio, Uni, Toro, La Verdad, KO Prime
Neighborhood: South End

MP: What’s your favorite restaurant in Boston?
Ken: Well, it’s not quite in Boston, but Blue Ginger. It does not get any better than that. It’s a restaurant that’s just gotten more and more consistent over the years. Still very very creative, still reasonably priced, it’s casual, it’s fun, it’s everything I love in a restaurant. Spicy, flavorful, love it.

MP: Excellent. What is your current favorite meal in the Boston area?
Ken: I’d probably have to say Sapporo Ramen. Miso ramen with butter, it’s probably my favorite. The most comforting dish that you can probably eat.

MP: What do you think is the best kept dining secret?
Ken: La Verdad! (laughs). No.
MP: Not during baseball season!
Ken: No. Best kept dining secret, I think is Taiwan Cafe. It’s off the beaten track a little bit, and they make all their own dumplings, everything. I love the food: it’s unusual combinations that you really don’t see much of in Chinese restaurants. I think if it were on one of the main streets, it would do probably twice or three times the volume it does now, but it’s just off the beaten track and upstairs.

MP: Where do you drink?
Ken: Gosh, let’s see. I like to hang out at Via Matta, the enoteca, especially at this time of year when the weather’s nice. I love to sit outside over there. Tremont 647: great place, wonderful cocktail list and same thing, it’s a funky atmosphere, really fun, and Andy Husbands is great, bar food that you can sit there for hours just nibbling and having cocktails.

MP: What neighborhood do you live in?
Ken: South End.
MP: And do you do your grocery shopping there or -
Ken: I do my grocery shopping at 7-11, Chinatown and Whole Foods.

MP: It seems like you’ve expanded a lot recently.
Ken: (laughs) A lot recently.

MP: What prompted the move to expand?
Ken: Well, I think that it’s all about timing and Clio is ten years old, Toro is now going on year two and Uni has been five years. I have a wonderful team of people running them, and so it’s given me a little bit more leisure time. I figured its better to do it now. I just got married a year ago, and if I don’t do it now, I probably won’t do it, because we’re starting to think about family and things like that, so I want to get everything, all the pieces in place now and so just be able to have fun with it and then start thinking about a family in another year or so.

MP: Was it a conscious decision to sort of expand into as many cuisines as possible?
Ken: Nah, it just kind of happened. It’s just cuisines that I love and a Mexican restaurant is something I’ve always wanted to do, whether it would have been a street cart or something or a little divey taqueria. It just happened to happen with some friends of ours and the same thing with the streakhouse. I love classic steakhouses and it sounded like fun. The hotel that it’s in is wonderful, and everything just seemed to work out.

[Photo: Boston University]

You Are What You Eat: The Local Legend