Life in the big city, and everything in between.

Red Rooster in Harlem

In Food on March 8, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Comfort food is what’s on the menu at Marcus Samuelsson’s new Harlem digs, Red Rooster. Since its opening back in December, I have been dying to try this new spot in the center of Harlem, a neighborhood I have grown to love. I finally had the chance to go a few nights ago, despite the tumultuous downpour. But since when did a little bad weather stop a New Yorker?

When you walk in you can’t help but notice the large circular bar, which takes up the entire front section of the restaurant. Patrons seemed liked they were sitting there for hours caught up in their conversations while sipping on some classic cocktails. And in the back of the restaurant is a big open bustling kitchen. The overall decor makes for a trendy restaurant. The walls are tastefully decorated with artwork from Harlem artists and the shelves are lined with some meaningful old school artifacts.

Neighborhood artifacts are tastefully decorated along the shleves at Red Rooster.

You get a sense of deep pride and commitment to Harlem from the decor.

With so many “comfort food” places in Harlem, such as Sylvia’s, which is right down the block from Red Rooster, you may wonder how Samuelsson’s menu can compete. Well what sets Red Rooster apart is that it’s not just an upscale diner, but a place where a home-cooked meal is taken to the next level.

I have been on a “bottarga” kick lately so I wanted to start off by trying the red caesar. The salad was topped with a smoked vinaigrette and grated parmesan. It’s a light dish but has a lot of flavor.

Red caesar salad with bottarga, topped with parmesan cheese and smoked vinaigrette.

The corn bread with honey butter and tomato jam was a real treat. Super buttery and moist, you barely need the additional butter they serve you, but who am I kidding it tastes ten times better with it! I wasn’t a huge fan of the tomato jam, though it did have a smokey and spicy flavor to it.  While I was eating the edges of the corn bread I was reminded of being kid when I used to eat the crust on all my mom’s homemade breads and pies. It was a good feeling.

The corn bread at Red Rooster is rich, buttery, and moist...just the way I like it.

If you happen to get a seat at the bar you should get the nuts, although we ordered them at our table to munch on. Spiced nuts like cashews, almonds, and peanuts with crispy injera and sour cherries make this a flavorful bar snack. They were so good I even placed another order to take home.

One of my favorite dishes were the tiny corn tacos and tostados. They were stuffed with yellowtail ceviche, salmon, and avocado. This miniature dish was light and very refreshing, but packed a whole lot of flavor.

The corn tacos and tostados make for a perfect light and refreshing first course.

For my entree I decided on one of Samuelsson’s signature dishes, the seared salmon with citrus kraut and apple broth. Another light, but extremely savory dish in my opinion. The salmon was cooked perfectly medium rare and the citrus kraut added an extra punch.

The seared salmon with citrus kraut and apple broth is a signature dish at Red Rooster.

When the server recommended we try the Helga’s meatballs because it came from his Swedish grandmother’s recipe, I was sold. It’s great to see that Samuelsson can incorporate foods from his Swedish upbringing. I have to admit that I have had better meatballs at Haakon’s Hall, near Columbia University. However, the lingonberries and mash did not disappoint.

"Helga's meatballs", from Samuelsson's Swedish grandmother's recipe.

For the dessert course we ordered the sweet potato doughnuts (not memorable) and the warm apple pie (a winner). What makes this dish so unique is the soft cheddar crust. I could not stop thinking about how delicious this dessert was. The apples were sliced paper thin and again, the crust was just an explosion of flavor in my mouth! And the vanilla whipped cream was a perfect complement to the dish.

The warm apple pie with a hint of cheddar in the crust, is a standout dessert at Red Rooster!

Red Rooster is a magnet not for Harlem residents, but for those who can appreciate what Samuelsson is trying to do. And maybe that is by offering affordable, yet well-executed food. Whatever the case, one thing is certain, Harlem is full of so much soul and that’s just part of what you’ll find at Red Rooster.

310 Lenox Ave
(between 125th St & 126th St)
New York, NY 10027
Neighborhood: Harlem

(212) 792-9001


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