The last time I was in Minton’s Playhouse was in May 2012. With the permission of the owner of the space New York businessman Richard Parsons, Jazzmobile, Inc. hosted jazz music here as part of their contribution to the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival 2012. The shows attempted to recreate the 1940s jam sessions that took place there where Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie pushed the boundaries of the art of pioneered bebop. The space was closed down after those four nights and its transformation begun. The entrance and the restrooms of the revived space are accessible for people with disabilities; possibly for some seasoned Harlem residents that used to hang out there when it was open before. The indoor décor is luxurious and rich in fabrics and texture. The art work is a photo homage to the jazz greats that played and song there in the 1940s. Jackets are required for male diners.
On its 21st century web site is the statement “a jazz legend is reborn.” I heard Executive Chef/Restaurateur Alexander Smalls speak at a culinary conference in October last year and he spoke about his travels and life experiences that had brought him to this time and this space; it was fascinating. I knew then that I wanted to review the reopened Minton’s Playhouse for Black History Month this year. The Minton’s created by Richard Parsons and Alexander Smalls did more than revive one of New York City’s most famous jazz clubs. I believe that they have elevated the jazz club by bringing the best of the fine dining experience to Harlem.
Since I was there to write up a restaurant review, I opted to defer to Chef de Cuisine Banks White’s choices for our dining selections; he even came out to speak with us. Beverage Director Marcella Smith paired wines with his menu selections. We did select our beverages from their sizable list of cocktail beverages; the Yard Bird and Minton’s Julep. The wines paired perfectly with every course. I have to contact Ms. Smith, a Washington Heights resident to ask her the names of the wines she selected because I want to add all of them to my list of go to choices when I stock up for a party I am hosting or when I want to take a bottle to a party.
Each course was magnificently plated and tasted delicious. Very little conversation took place once the plates arrived. The wait staff is very knowledgeable about the menu and the main ingredients of each dish. Listed below are the menu items we tasted:
The Low Country Experience which consisted of the following six (6) mini tastings served on a plate that looked like you could play tick, tack and toe on it:
- Beau soleil oysters, champagne mignonette, ossetra Caviar
- Deviled egg toast with smoked trout & pickled shallots
- Fried okra with surryano country ham
- Blue crab fritter with sauce rouille
- House bacon pilau with smoked chipotle sauce
- Creminis stuffed with reamed collard greens
Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras on a toasted pecan biscuit with Vidalia marmalade and bourbon cane syrup.
Grilled Gulf Shrimp with North African spice, charred okra and sweet red pepper remoulade.
Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop served with yam hominy grit cake, winter greens and apple currant sauce.
Lobster and Shrimp Casserole smothered with Creole crawfish gravy and Nora Mills’ pimento cheese grits.
A side of smoked Gouda and gruyere Mac and cheese with roasted garlic.
By the third course I was asking for take out containers because we were stuffed; we missed out on the fourth course of dessert. Dessert will be something for me to save space for and to look forward to on my next visit.
There was a group of five twenty something years olds seated by us who were enjoying the NYC Winter Restaurant Week menu that Minton’s was a participant in this year and they were experiencing jazz music for the first time and loving it. The jazz music that evening reached the inner me and had me swaying from side to side, tapping my feet and singing along. The musicians were Ed Stout on piano, Alex Layne on bass and Leroy Williams on drums and they were looking very spiffy in their tuxedos. Noted jazz vocalist/educator Melba Joyce even stopped by to catch their set, and we talked for a while.
Our reservation was for 8pm and it was close to 11pm by the time we were leaving so I know we had a good time. So if you like fine dining like me or would like to see what the experience is like then visiting and soaking up the Minton’s Playhouse experience is a must. Dress to impress and bring your camera and a big smile to take some lasting memories. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
Minton’s, 206 West 118th Street, 212-243-2222
Have you been to Minton’s Playhouse, what do you think?