East End Kitchen
Although the East End Kitchen almost touches the East River, I consider the trek well worth it for a terrific meal in a comfortable environment. On the cold winter day in 2015 when I visited, I was met by the manager, Sunshine, and Ray, the chef at the time. As their names would suggest, their greeting was warm and friendly.
As Ray whipped up a few dishes in the kitchen, I explored the space. The design has an all-American feel, emphasized by the rustic wood floors and the traditional furnishings. I admired a painting hanging on the wall depicting the restaurant, which I learned was done by one of the bartenders.
Ray brought out a coriander-crusted tuna dish with a swirl of celery puree. While the Manhattan Sideways team tasted the creation and commented on the blend of flavors, I spoke with Ray about his background in the culinary industry. He initially attended law school, but left part way in after realizing that his true passion was to become a chef. His resume is impressive, including positions at Boulton and Watt on 1st Street, as well as a few high profile restaurants in Brooklyn.
Ray continued to bring out more dishes to be photographed and tasted – including a plate of braised octopus, delicately arranged around mashed potatoes, and a classic cheeseburger served with a pickle and crispy fries. “We are not importing anything from Italy or France,” Ray pointed out. The menu is local and is constantly being renewed. “Serving corn right now (in the middle of the winter) is a big ‘no’ for me.” Ensuring that the items on the menu were seasonal was the first major change that Ray made upon joining East End Kitchen. When I asked about future changes, he said that he is looking to introduce a special burger made with good quality meat, sea salt, caramelized onions, and bourbon butter. The burger’s sweet-and-salty base will be topped with an egg. He was also looking forward to adding a tempura dish in the coming weeks.
Before we left, Ray brought out a cast iron chocolate cookie, accompanied by a mason jar of milk. The cookie, warm and fluffy, almost had the consistency of cake, and milk was just what we all needed to wash it down. The cookie demonstrated the properties that make East End Kitchen a success: traditional and classic, made new, and done well.