You’ve heard of a time-warp, right? East End Kitchen is in a space-warp, a Yorkville restaurant that “feels like” it belongs in the Hamptons or the Flatiron District. Bemused residents walk by all evening long, peering through the windows, wondering how such a place wound up in their neighborhood.
The owners, Allan and Diane Carlin, told Grub Street they wanted “to fill a void of ‘casual’ ‘thoughtful’ restaurants in the area. As such, their ‘American bistro’ uses organic produce, sustainably sourced seafood, and grass-fed meats in its menu.”
But how “thoughtful” is it, when you trot out the same bistro tropes that have been used at six dozen other places? Of course, there is nothing wrong with replicating a widely successful model, if you can do it well, but don’t claim you’re something you’re not.
Unfortunately, the performance here is somewhat uneven, with hits and duds in just about equal measure. The menu is inexpensive by downtown standards, with entrées mostly $18–24 (the steak is $35). But there is nothing distinctive enough to lure destination diners to this remote location, and the neighborhood may find it too expensive for a regular hang-out.
Crab Cakes ($18; above right) were pretty good, but Grassfed Meat Balls ($14; above left) were bland and under-seasoned. If I’d made them at home, I wouldn’t have had grassfed beef, but I would have done something more interesting with them.
Snapper in a Bag ($20; above left) is one of the more notable entrées. It’s surprising you don’t see this more often: the bag really does hold in the moisture, as advertised, and there was a nice stew of mushrooms and crushed tomatoes inside.
There’s nothing wrong with Pork ‘n’ Peaches ($23; above right) as a concept, but pork off the bone tends to be underwhelming. The corn was excellent and the peaches were fine, but you could have made ’em at home.
A frozen blueberry soufflé ($8; left) was a textural disaster: a brick of frozen, cakey blueberry substance in a ramekin. My friend called it astronaut food. The server told us it was a real soufflé, but any resemblance to that familiar dessert was strictly incidental.
The wine list is slightly over-priced for the neighborhood, as were the cocktails ($14 each), although we enjoyed our Muga Rosé ($33).
The old Boeuf à la Mode space has been re-done in bright, distressed blond wood. There is a spacious bar, and the dining room is deep, with space to seat at least 60, and maybe 75. There was a decent crowd by the time we left, so the locals are at least amenable to giving the new place a try.
The staff does try hard, and undoubtedly they have a genuine desire to embrace (and be embraced by) the neighborhood. If I lived nearby, I would give it another shot, but the food will need to be more dependable, and they may need to shave a couple of dollars off the appetizers, if they want to attract a real following.
East End Kitchen (539 E. 81st St. btwn York & East End Aves., Upper East Side)