Confession--We are struggling with this "challenge" this year. We are absolutely swamped--with all sorts of good things--but the reality is, it's been hard to get away just the two of us, which is why these posts aren't appearing monthly and why sometimes date night comes with a reservation greater than 2! No big deal--the thing we're thrilled about is that we're still finding time to get out and try new restaurants, sometimes with Brecken, sometimes without. C'est la vie!
In an Odds & Ends post last October, I mentioned that I'd read Yes, Chef, Marcus Samuelsson's memoir, and that I was determined to visit his NYC restaurant Red Rooster the next time I was in town. Less than a year later, I made good on my word! Knowing reservations are hard to get, and that they can only be made 30 days in advance, I was sure to immediately book a table as soon as I could, and even then my options were an early bird dinner or one past Brecken's bedtime. a 5:30 pm reservation ended up being ideal; we showed up a few minutes early and got to watch as the servers had their in-house meeting before service began. Given my obsession with all things restaurant (particularly when it comes to the behind the scenes action!), I loved this brief peek into the inner-workings of Red Rooster!
In a stroke of luck, Brecken was passed out in the ergo for the first half of the meal, leaving us time to leisurely order drinks (wine for the boys, sangria for me, water for mama-to-be Katie) and peruse the appetizer menu. We ended up ordering the watermelon heirloom tomato salad (light and fresh, exactly how a starter salad should be) and the cornbread with honey butter and tomato jam (even better than it sounds). Our server seemed to have a knack for timing and was incredibly helpful when we struggled to pick amongst the enticing menu options.
Matt ended up with the Fried Yardbird, which took the typical fried chicken up a notch with some curry flavoring. He also ordered a side of the Mexican street corn, which I envied once I saw his arrive. Katie ordered Helga's Meatballs, suspecting that with Marcus' Swedish upbringing means he can make a mean meatball. Her suspicions were correct, and Brecken heartily approved of the side of mashed potatoes that accompanied them (thanks for sharing Katie!).
Never, ever able to decide, Ryan and I opted to split two entrees: the Blackened Catfish (the jalapeno creamed corn and fried okra totally sold us) and the Mexiopian Chicken, at the recommendation of our server. Don't ask me to pick a favorite between the two, as we licked both plates clean, but the chicken dish definitely won for most creative. It's rare that I'll order chicken when I'm eating out, but I couldn't resist this fusion of Mexican and Ethiopian cuisines (spicy chicken atop injera with dirty rice and mole rojo) and it did not disappoint! It was actually day one of the dish on the menu and I have a feeling it'll quickly rank as a favorite.
After a quick glance at the dessert menu, we knew there was no way we could pass up trying at least a few of them. Though we easily could've ordered everything off the dessert menu, we picked our three favorites: the Cornmeal Butter Cake, the Red Rooster doughnuts, and the S'Mores Bar. They each possessed something special--caramelized figs on the cake, sweet potato filling in the doughnuts, and toasted marshmallow ice cream with the s'mores bar. Our collective favorite was definitely the doughnuts, which couldn't have been executed more perfectly!
It's always risky to dine somewhere where you have preconceived notions and high expectations. Thankfully Red Rooster completely surpassed all of those expectations and two weeks later I'm still raving about the meal. The restaurant itself is awesome, totally funky and right at home in the Harlem neighborhood. The staff was excellent, friendly and welcoming, even with our 7.5-month old who may or may not have left an explosion of puffs all over the floor. Best of all, the food was fantastic, upscale soul food with a creative touch that already has me pining to return next time I'm in the area!