Okay, I’m finding it hilarious that I go to a place called BLUE Smoke and now somewhere called RED Rooster. Need to find a WHITE _____ restaurant to complete the patriotic triad.
This was my first trip back to Harlem in some time. Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster has only opened in December, but it’s been a happening spot ever since. I must say this is not my first encounter with Marcus and Harlem. When I visited the Target on 116th Street last year, he had a line of kitchen linens that he had designed in honor of that particular Target (or something like that).
Lily and I elected to go here since it’s been getting a lot of buzz (RR has been in the news as the site of an Obama fundraiser) and is in an area familiar to us. We got a reservation easily enough for dinner. The front bar scene was hopping. I liked the openness of the space. There are no tables outside unlike Chez Lucienne next door, but it feels non-stuffy inside. We were seated at a communal table, sandwiched between two women who had something to do with real estate and kept looking at apartments on a glowing iPad and between a mother and young daughter, celebrating the daughter’s success in school. Both sets of diners were chatty and nice. The table was too wide though; I had to yell or project strongly so that Lily could hear me, and in return, I had to strain my ear devices to hear her words.
Here’s the vantage point from my seat:
Neat decor! But for those of you into celebrity chef sightings, no Marcus Samuelsson was in the kitchen, whipping up meatballs. Alas.
The menu is heavily soul-comfort food, with touches of Ethiopian and Swedish. I went in not reading any Yelp reviews so that I could go in without influences. I settled on “The Fried Yard Bird ($21)” since hey, I was in a place with a farm fowl in the title.
What was kind of annoying was that the waiter, a good guy, kept trying to push add-ons. “Would you be interested in anything to munch on? Pickles or nuts?” “How about any appetizers?” It was like that the whole time. I don’t know if that was how he was trained or what, but it got old. If we want stuff, we’ll ask for it. At least he and the other staff members were attentive; my water glass never was completely drained. To thwart the endless requests to buy more, I said I was going to save room for dessert. Despite all those pushes for sides and appetizers, we were granted complimentary bread. The olive oil dip had a very familiar taste to it that I couldn’t put my finger on. Cheese? No, not quite. And the the mom next to us provided the answer since she too was wondering: chickpeas. Ah yes!
Here is the yard bird. A shaker of extra spice came out too, but since the red-orange sauce already burned my mouth, I didn’t mess around with that. I really like the collard greens. I started with the drumstick and was taken by the non-dry aspect of the meat. The skin also had a unique flavor to it. But the breast was not as rewarding with the meat, and then I was getting a little sick of the breading which was getting a little mealy. I wanted more collard greens!
The dessert I saved room for ended up being the black and white mud ($8). While black and white cookies are dumb and popular in NYC for what reason, I don’t know, I wanted to try this since it sounded terrific. Oreo cookie crust, layer of white chocolate thick mousse, layer of chocolate thick mousse, topped with sea salt and candied orange peel (which Lily mistook for a French fry). The plate and the dessert itself were chilled. Refreshingly chocolatey. But too much for one person, so Lily helped me polish the chocolate craziness off. Though as I ate more and more, I thought there was too much salt in the crust and top. This reminds me very much so of the dessert I had at Marlow and Sons. Again, ease up on the sea salt.
Make a special trip to scope out the bathrooms; you’ll be glad you did.