By Lil Nickelson
During this New Year Red Rooster Harlem launched their lunch/brunch menu, and from all indications from my dining companions and myself it is a smash hit. First off it is reasonably priced for the superb quality fresh from the farm food you are eating. Slices of crusty white bread along with some olive oil mixed with some aged balsamic vinegar for dipping arrives at the table before you order. We started out our meal with the Cornbread served with honey butter and tomato chutney on the side. The cornbread is more like cake, and the portion size was sufficient. It tastes good served with both condiments. The Red Rooster Burger was so meaty and moist, even though it was ordered medium, well with a slice of Comte cheese. The generous size burger is backed up with spicy mayo, fresh lettuce and tomato, mustard and mushroom on a warm brioche roll. The truffle fries (which are better than McDonald’s fries) are served in this cute steel cage, and are addictive once you start eating them.
The Nuggets and Toast is an excellent alternative choice to most other Harlem eateries’ chicken and waffles menu item. The chicken nuggets were meaty, well-seasoned and not greasy. Flavor wise they combine well with buttermilk maple French toast that have a taste of cinnamon in them. The Shrimp and Red Grits with shrimp, basil, sausage and poached egg had every diner near us that ordered it humming “hmm hmm” as they savored each spoonful.
For dessert we had the Sweet Potato Doughnuts served with crème fraiche and an iced dessert that taste like lemon sorbet and a scoop of ice cream and sorbet. They were the perfect choices to end our meal.
You walk in and the huge horse shoe shaped bar is the first thing you take notice of. However, the atmosphere and ambiance is really warm and cozy on the dining room side on the first floor. The back of house is on display for all to see. The exposed wood tables, leather placemats and trendy art on the walls sets the stage to let you know that something new and different has come to Harlem. The restrooms are spotless, bright and shiny yet homey at the same time. The old snapshot pictures on the wall in the bathroom had me looking for some of my old family photos for some strange reason. Overall the space is eclectic; no one style dominates.
Where Red Rooster Harlem is stepping up the game is in bringing in the fine dining service experience and their attention to the details. I spotted three of the top managers from the Marcus Samuelsson Group (Chef Samuelsson, Andrew Chapman & Derek Fleming) going from table to table introducing their selves to diners and asking about their dining experience. I’m sure there were other group members that I don’t know working the rooms as well. It reminded me of what Sylvia Woods and her late husband used to do at their restaurant Sylvia’s back in the day.
The service at Red Rooster Harlem is impeccable, and I believe is unrivaled at present by any other Harlem eatery due to a lower ratio of customers per server. Water glasses are automatically refilled by the time you are halfway finished without you having to ask. The wait staff will ask if you want your coffee or tea refilled for free as well. They also inquire if you need or want anything during your meal.
Their take out materials are environmentally friendly; recycled paper boxes with brown paper bags with a Red Rooster logo sticker on it. You know you had a great dining experience when you’ve decided what you are going to order your next time you come before you leave. Red Rooster Harlem has diversified Lenox Avenue’s restaurant choices, and it’s a welcome addition to the Harlem community. Call and get your reservation in so that you can taste and be pampered at the newest gem in Harlem.