In­ven­tive food, crafts­man­ship make Ends Meat

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - DINING - By Michael Mayo

Ends Meat is so good, I’m torn writ­ing about it.

The restau­rant opened in March in down­town Hol­ly­wood, a hole in the wall that’s easy to miss. It’s nar­row in­side, with only 20 seats in the rear din­ing area, 10 seats at the bar and 20 seats out­side.

Every­thing about the place seems right: the vibe, the value, the food. But mostly, it’s the earnest crafts­man­ship you can feel ooz­ing from the tal­ented chefs onto ev­ery plate.

The fla­vors will make food­ies swoon, but there’s no pre­ten­sion or fussi­ness. The skirt steak with chimichurri ($23) was so ten­der and nu­anced it made one table­mate ditch his usual veg­e­tar­i­an­ism. The king trum­pet mush­room “scal­lops” ($17) were so meaty and in­ven­tive, they had me re­think­ing my usual loathing of faux-an­i­mal dishes. Fresh oys­ters and clams were en­tic­ingly dis­played on ice in the front win­dow. Nearly every­thing on the small menu was a hit. Th­ese folks clearly know what they’re do­ing, right out of the gate.

And that ac­counts for my am­biva­lence in hyp­ing the place. Self­ishly, I want to keep this gem to my­self. Re­al­is­ti­cally, I know the word of mouth will spread fast, so the scant seats will soon be hard to come by.

Ends Meat is the cre­ation of a hus­band-and-wife team, Kevin and Ge­or­gianna Drei­fuss, who sold a suc­cess­ful South Florida food truck to pur­sue their brickand-mor­tar dream. The truck, Pesca­dos Unidos, spe­cial­ized in mahi-mahi sausages, and those de­li­cious links are found here, in the drool-in­duc­ing seafood jam­bal­aya ($21).

Con­vert­ing a for­mer crepe restau­rant on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard turned out to be a longer or­deal than ex­pected: 16 months of has­sles over city per­mits, in­spec­tions and the like. They’ve dec­o­rated it play­fully, with up­side- down lamp­shades hang­ing from the ceil­ing as light fix­tures and a chalk­board run­ning along the back wall for din­ers to scrawl on.

Kevin roped in a culi­nary school buddy, Ken­nole Wong, to move The jam­bal­aya at Ends Meat in Hol­ly­wood. from San Fran­cisco as co-chef. Un­for­tu­nately, Wong missed his home­town and left the restau­rant this week. Ends Meat feels much like a Bay Area hang­out, with ro­tat­ing craft mi­cro­brews, a se­lect and rea­son­able wine list, an in­house smoker they like to play with, and a menu that em­pha­sizes seafood and veg­gies.

There’s also a nod to Kevin’s Jewish her­itage, with Reuben egg rolls ($8) stuffed with house­made corned beef and sauer­kraut and week­end brunch ser­vice fea­tur­ing a bagel with house-smoked trout ($10) in­stead of the usual salmon. And there’s enough traif to make a rabbi blanch, in­clud­ing an oc­to­pus-and-shrimp ce­viche ap­pe­tizer ($12), and a pork-and-beans main course ($19) that fea­tures a moist, sliced cen­ter-cut chop over white beans with mus­tard jus, topped with frisee.

The staff is mak­ing magic in the small kitchen, hav­ing fun ex­per­i­ment­ing and plop­ping down free sam­ples of menu items for new­com­ers, in­clud­ing the car­rots mé­nage ap­pe­tizer ($8, a trio of car­rots, in­clud­ing a bliss­ful garam masala prepa­ra­tion).

They seem ea­ger to show off their hand­i­work and build good­will. That’s smart busi­ness.

I’d give it four stars, but there were some oc­ca­sional hic­cups with servers still learn­ing the ropes, such as how to open a bot­tle of wine. They’re try­ing. The food more than com­pen­sates.

On sev­eral vis­its, all I’ve heard is gush­ing from cus­tomers. “I’m hav­ing a mouth-gasm,” a lo­cal bar­tender named Drew said at a neigh­bor­ing ta­ble on a re­cent Fri­day night. He brought a small crew as he ate at the restau­rant for a third con­sec­u­tive day.

Then, he of­fered me a bite from his plate. It’s that kind of place.

I for­get what Drew was eat­ing, be­cause my own ta­ble was del­uged with dishes. The Chiog­gia beet salad ($9) fea­tured pre­cisely cut beet cubes over baby arugula,

Ends Meat

1910 Hol­ly­wood Blvd., 954-391-7400, End­sMeat.com Cui­sine: Cost: Hours: Reser­va­tions: Credit cards: Bar: Sound level: Out­door smok­ing: For kids: Wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble: Yes Park­ing: Free on street sprin­kled with goat cheese and pine nuts and spiked with mus­tard seed. The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay oys­ters (six for $14) were plump and briny, served with house­made cocktail sauce that shined. The smoked trout dip ($10) was amiss the night I tried it, a whipped blend with cream cheese and sour cream in which the fish got lost. Kevin ad­mit­ted the batch got away, then atoned by bring­ing a few slices of the smoked trout. All was for­given.

The jerk chicken roulade and rice ($19) fea­tured moist white meat coated with Ja­maican spice over pi­geon-pea risotto with toasted co­conut. The seafood jam­bal­aya ($21) is a stand­out, an ac­tion-packed bowl with steamed clams and mus­sels, house­made mahi sausage, house-smoked shrimp and spicy rice. I’m usu­ally not a fan of cream-tinged sauce for lin­guini with clams ($16), but this ver­sion was ephemeral, silky and not too heavy, coat­ing the per­fectly cooked pasta at the bot­tom of the bowl but not the steamed top-neck clams perched above.

Ge­or­gianna is the pas­try chef, and she usu­ally whips up a batch of fresh cakes and pies, in­clud­ing Key Lime. But they were out the first time I went, so we set­tled for a brownie a la mode ($5) that was fine. On my sec­ond visit, I was too stuffed to eat dessert.

Next time, I’ll leave room for a proper end­ing. I’m just hop­ing Ends Meat will have room for me.

MICHAEL MAYO/SOUTHFLORIDA.COM

Pork and beans at Ends Meat in Hol­ly­wood. Mod­ern Amer­i­can In­ex­pen­sive/mod­er­ate Tues­day-Fri­day lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., din­ner 5-11 p.m. (un­til mid­night Fri­day); Satur­day-Sun­day brunch 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Satur­day din­ner 4 p.m.-mid­night, Sun­day din­ner 4-10...

MICHAEL MAYO/SOUTHFLORIDA.COM

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