Chef JJ Johnson Debuts New Menu At Legendary Minton’s In Fabulous Harlem

Minton’s, the historic jazz club located at 206 West 118th Street in Harlem and founded in 1938, announces that it will re-open on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 with an all-new menu by Executive Chef Joseph “JJ” Johnson and a renowned musical line-up of emerging jazz artists.
The new concept, which recently merged with award-winning sister restaurant The Cecil, will bring together the best of food and music, combining Chef JJ’s global cooking influenced by African, Asian and American cuisines, together with a historic stage featuring talent from around the world. Minton’s will now be open five days a week, offering dinner Wednesday through Sunday and weekend brunch, all accompanied by live music, as well as late-night jam sessions.

Chef JJ is introducing a completely new menu at Minton’s, an eclectic and well-rounded mix of dishes meant to be shared that exemplify bold flavors and unexpected ingredients. Through his travels over the past few years to Ghana, Jerusalem, the Caribbean, Singapore as well as an upcoming trip to India, Chef JJ has become inspired by many ingredients and food cultures, combining their complex culinary histories to show how multi-dimensional this cuisine can be.

Together with his Chef de Cuisine Tiffany Minter, who previously trained under Chef April Bloomfield at The Spotted Pig, Chef JJ’s new dinner menu will feature the below highlights:

  • Short Rib Toast with spicy pickled okra and yogurt, a dish inspired by Chef JJ’s trip to Jerusalem where he’d visit outdoor markets and find Za’atar-spiced yogurt served with freshly-baked filone bread and merchants preparing tender braised meats.
  • Chef Tiffany’s creamy Chicken Liver Mousse, a signature French preparation, thickly spread over skillet corn bread and topped with a sweet fruit jam of dried dates, cranberries, white raisins, and apricots
  • Niman Ranch Lamb top rounds served with escovitch plantains (a Caribbean preparation), azuki red beans (just how JJ’s grandmother used to make them) and Concón (the popular Dominican-style crispy rice taken from the bottom of the pot, similar to the Iranian version known as Tadig).
  • Whole Market Fish marinated in housemade harissa, a North African chili paste, and then fried and topped with red shallots, watercress, and Sous Chef Juan Ponce’s famous spicy pickled jalapenos – a myriad of global flavors and techniques.

They are also joined by crowd favorites from The Cecil, including the Afro-Asian-American Gumbo, made with smoked chicken, Chinese chicken sausage, Gulf shrimp and crab; the Oxtail Dumplings with green apple curry and taro root; and JJ’s decadent Wagyu Burger, grilled to perfection with gruyere, vidalia onion spread and smoked pork belly.

Along with beer and wine, a selection of flavorful cocktails and riffs on classics will be served, including the Ella Fitz (Gin, Aperol, lime and sparkling rose) and the Blood & Fire (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Allspice Dram, Bissap and lemon juice). The list pulls favorites from The Cecil and Minton’s as well as introduces several new cocktails to complement Chef JJ’s mirepoix of flavors.

Founded in 1938 by saxophonist Henry Minton, Minton’s is heralded as the birthplace of bebop and the setting for a revolution in jazz. Before a fire shuttered the club in 1974, Minton’s was home to all of the jazz greats, from Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie to Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday, and so many more. In 2013, owner Richard Parsons, currently the Chairman of the Jazz Foundation of America (and former CEO of Time Warner and Citigroup) and restaurateur Alexander Smalls re-opened Minton’s, and they continue their intent to honor the club’s legacy in jazz — while also now serving as a platform for up-and-coming artists.

“I believe that jazz is America’s greatest cultural contribution to the world – and it’s important that Minton’s is able to foster the future of music by giving a platform to new talent.” said Parsons. “Together with incredible food, we look forward to creating a magical experience full of sounds and flavors for guests from near and far.”

Performances at Minton’s will include recognized jazz veterans and emerging artists alike, pulling from a diverse artist community of soul-jazz, bebop and hip-hop performers in the ever-changing music scene in Harlem and beyond. Music will be offered with no cover charge (with the exception of special performances), five nights a week and during weekend brunch and Saturday late-night jam sessions.

Notable January performances include:

  • George Braith on January 14: Soul-jazz legend George Braith will grace the stage — he is a multi-reedist who often plays a saxophone in each hand.
  • Shunzo Ohno on January 21: A renowned trumpeter who has performed with greats around the world, Ohno is considered one of the most versatile and influential trumpeters in modern jazz.
  • Tim Green Quartet on January 27: Saxophonist, composer and arranger Tim Green melds hard bop, fluid modernity and soulful gospel, and he has emerged as a powerful new voice in jazz.  
  • Emily Braden on January 28: Powerhouse vocalist Emily Braden brings together soul and jazz with no boundaries and an unforgettable stage presence.

Minton’s is home to an incredible original mural painted in 1948 by Charles Graham, which has been displayed as the backdrop of its stage for years and is the only remaining relic from the 1974 fire. Depicting a jam session of several musicians, it also features a sleeping woman on a bed, long speculated to be Billie Holiday after one too many drinks. The space was re-conceptualized for its opening in 2013 by designer Sarah Garcia, who chose plush banquette seating, soft lighting and vibrant hues to complement a gallery of photographs of Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and many other jazz greats throughout the restaurant.  Small touches and updates have been made throughout the space in the past month, and Minton’s has created a more casual setting by opting with cherry wood tables instead of white tablecloths. The dining room offers seating for 55, while an adorned 9-seat cherry wood bar, displaying a large mirror with handwritten drink and food specials, greets guests in the lounge area. The sister space next door, which historically was The Cecil Hotel and more recently the award-winning restaurant, will be utilized for private events and community collaborations while the team determines a longer-term vision for the room.

Minton’s, 206 West 118th Street @ St. Nicholas Avenue, New York, NY 10026
(212) 243-2222, www.mintonsharlem.com

Photo credit: 1) Short Rib Toast. 2) Niman Ranch Lamb Top Rounds. 3) Whole Market Fish.

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