Eat This: Brunch at Red Rooster Harlem

February 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm 1 comment

Red Rooster Harlem, the long-awaited and much-anticipated Harlem restaurant by the increasingly famous Marcus Samuelsson, opened its doors at the end of last year to much fanfare. Trumpeting Samuelsson’s Swedish and African roots with Harlem’s soul food heritage, Red Rooster Harlem’s brunch menu is full of interesting offerings drawing from all three influences.

The open kitchen at Red Rooster Harlem

Prudently, we made reservations (they take them on their website and at opentable), which seemed like the smart thing to do. At 11, we got a nice table in the dining room as opposed to the bar area up front and were seated immediately; after 12 there was a large crowd waiting in the bar area. The decor is homey and comfortable with a touch of class–there is some nice artwork hanging on the walls and an interesting mural covering the open kitchen in the back. The service was solid as well.

A Philip Maysles print of Norman Rockwell as Ruby Bridges at Red Rooster Harlem

Now, on to the food:

We started with an order of cornbread ($4), which comes with two thick slices of cornbread and sides of honey butter and tomato jam. Slathering some honey butter on that cornbread was pretty heavenly. The tomato jam was nice and tomato-y–I wasn’t in the mood for that, but if you like tomatoes in the morning you’ll enjoy it.

Cornbread with honey butter and tomato jam

Since there were four of us we got a pretty good sampling of entrees. We ordered the Wood Oven Baked Egg with Mac & Greens ($14), Nuggets & Toast ($15), Poached Egg, Shrimp, & Red Grits ($15), and Lamb Hash ($14). The restaurant gives you a choice of sides with the Wood Oven Baked Egg, the other choices being Wurst & Onion or Tomato & Mozzarella. While I can’t speak for those, I can say that the Mac & Greens are fabulous.

Wood Oven Baked Eggs with Mac & Greens

The eggs themselves come in a small cast iron pan, studded with chunks of thick bread. All in all, they were just eggs. But, the Mac & Greens, covered in bread crumbs and served in their own mini cast iron dish, were supremely delicious. A mix of comte, NY cheddar, and gouda give the orechiette pasta a nice, creamy and smoky base and the added greens make you feel a little less guilty!

Mac & Greens close-up

The Poached Egg, Shrimp & Red Grits reportedly contained the best, juiciest shrimp my friend has ever tasted. The red grits are a nice, unique play on traditional grits, mixing them with tomatoes for a fresh and almost fruity flavor. The poached egg was cooked well and oozed it’s yummy yolk all through the dish.

Poached Egg, Shrimp, & Red Grits

The Lamb Hash joined chunks of tender lamb with potatoes and sweet potatoes and was served in a cast iron skillet. My husband reported the lamb juicy and well seasoned, and the potatoes went well with the lamb, with sweet potatoes adding a nice element to the overall flavor of the dish.

Lamb Hash

The Nuggets & Toast was my favorite entree of the morning. An innovative play on the traditional fried chicken and waffles, this dish has boneless chunks of friend chicken atop thick slices of brioche French toast. The whole thing was then soaked in maple syrup.

Nuggets & Toast come drenched in maple syrup

Let me start by saying I am not a huge French toast fan and almost never order it at a restaurant unless it sounds exceptional. My usual issue is that it ends up being too dry. However, these thick slices of brioche were cooked so perfectly that the middle was custardy and moist, while not being soggy. There was a LOT of maple syrup on there, which may turn some people off, but the syrup was so delicious that I didn’t mind. In fact, I loved it. The syrup also covered the chunks of chicken, which were spicy and peppery and crunchy and oh so yummy. All in all, a winning dish.

Of course, we couldn’t stop there–we had to have dessert! We ordered the Sweet Potato Doughnuts and the Warm Apple Pie. The doughnuts came with a bowl of whipped cream and a bowl of lemon sorbet. I was expecting to be blown away by the doughnuts–two of my favorite things, combined!–but in the end was a kind of disappointed. I wanted them to be more moist, and while I loved the squirt of sweet potato filling int he center of the doughnut holes, it was a tad flavorless, plus not all of them had it. However, JudyJams loved them and so did my husband, so what do I know?

Sweet Potato Doughnuts--check out the sweet potato ooze coming out of the doughnuts

Luckily, dessert was saved for me by the Warm Apple Pie! Boasting a “soft cheddar crust” this pie really blew me away. The apples were sliced very thinly and the crust was intensely amazing. And the vanilla whipped cream was the perfect accompaniment.

Warm Apple Pie = Heaven

On a side note, I am so thrilled that both pie and doughnuts are having their moments in the spotlight lately, what with Four & Twenty Blackbirds, D.O.U.G.H., and the new Doughnut Plant location in Chelsea. Hooray for non-cupcake desserts!

The verdict? It is definitely worth traveling up to Harlem over the weekend to check out Red Rooster Harlem’s brunch–just try to get a reservation so you don’t have to wait. And then you can make a day of it by checking out some of Harlem’s museums or other delicious food institutions!

Entry filed under: DevoLT, Eat This, Restaurant Review, Restaurants We Like, Toast. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Eat This: Seven Grain Porridge from Natural Blend JudyJams March 2011 picks: The Dodos, Aaron Roche, and Telekinesis

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