Comfort Kitchen is bringing a new meaning behind comfort food to Dorchester.
After three years of operating as a residency pop-up restaurant out of Little Dipper in Jamaica Plain, Comfort Kitchen opened its own doors in January out of a historic building that used to be a public restroom until 1974.
Despite the remodel and the change of reason behind entering, people from near and far with all kinds of different backgrounds are still walking through its doors with one mission – and this time, it has to do with food. To the Comfort Kitchen team, their new location feels like it was meant to be.
“This is where our home is, so it feels really special to work right in the neighborhood,” Managing Partner Biplaw Rai said. “It really doesn’t feel like work to be honest.”
As for what that so-called “work” constitutes, it’s simple: share global cultures through food.
“For us, identity is big, and you can see it in our food. We call it global comfort food. All these foods were immigrant food at one point in their lifespan,” Rai said. “We really work hard to tell not just immigrant stories but stories that reflect the diaspora and South Asian spice trade,” Chef Partner Kwasi Kwaa added.
The two met at a bakery in Cambridge in 2009 and have been friends ever since. Now, they’re business partners and storytellers.
Maybe that story is told through their okra dish, which perfectly depicts the spice trade and the vegetable itself traveling around the world in a blend of ingredients that might not be the typical dish. Their menu shares the origin stories of each item so eaters can really see where their food is coming from. Even their beverages created by Beverage Director Kyisha Davenport include spices and ingredients from around the globe!
Since their residency days at Little Dipper, Kwaa has produced the menu with Chef de Cuisine Shelley Nason like one produces music – which is fitting considering when most people hear residency, they assume it has to do with a show, not a meal. To him, the menu is made up of a lot of different components that come together to make a song, representing a lot of cultures all in one.
But don’t ask Kwaa what his favorite menu item is. That would be like asking him who his favorite child is – it can’t be done.
Aside from introducing new food to the neighborhood, the Comfort Kitchen team wants to do what they can to fix the commonplace restaurant culture. After their combined 20+ years of experience, Rai and Biplaw have seen firsthand just how broken the restaurant industry is. They knew they would change it if they ever were to be in the business.
“The restaurant industry can be a toxic work culture. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” Rai said. “We are not even attempting to change the whole industry, we just want to have a great working space where people are heard, paid well and have a work-life balance.”
Since opening, Rai says the response has been incredibly humbling and positive and they are looking forward to all that is to come with this new venture.
“We’re a very community-focused business, and to see people from different parts of our external communities come in and appreciate what our internal community is trying to do is very special to us,” Kwaa said.
Support the Comfort Kitchen community by visiting them during the day for a revamped PB&J named “Justice for All” after Rai’s son Justice or in the evening for some plantain chips and spice-roasted eggplant.
But don’t forget to get the pistachio cardamom ice cream. After all, there is always room for dessert.
Comfort Kitchen is located at 611 Columbia Road. To view the menu or learn more information, visit their website here!
Cafe: Mon–Sat 8am–3pm
Dinner: Tue–Sat 5-10pm
Closed on Sunday
Make sure to follow Comfort Kitchen on Instagram too!
Megan Klein is a freelance writer and journalism student at Boston University. She loves meeting new people and sharing their stories and has a passion for Trader Joe’s, as well as most other food (except cheese). Lifestyle, culture, local features and mental health are all things of interest to her
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