Spoiler Alert: This place is all that and then some. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, cook extraordinaire, TV personality, and James Beard Award Winner, has opened this beautiful and spacious restaurant in the middle of Harlem, right on Lenox Avenue by 125th Street a few years ago, and has never looked back. It is avant garde, it’s a neighborhood spot, it’s a culinary road trip, it really is all that and then some. Chef Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, then moved to the US as a young chef. The menu at the Red Rooster reflects that with dishes with influences from Africa, Southern US, Sweden and beyond. I have yet to try a dish that doesn’t immediately has me close my eyes for a second and think: wow. Or do I say it out loud? Ah, who cares. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
If you know me, you know I don’t usually go to a restaurant twice. Not because I don’t like them, but because I want to try as much different food as possible. But there are a few spots that have me coming back. The Red Rooster is one of them, I’ve been there three times now. The atmosphere is irresistible, the menu is forever changing, the staff and patrons alike are always welcoming, you feel drawn to this place like a moth to fire.
On my latest visit I brought along my trusted sidekick and fellow foodie, my daughter Sasha. My meal was relaxed, extensive (!) and highlighted with a couple of visits from my friend Rasheeda Purdie, a talented young chef, who happens to cook at the Rooster, and was busy cooking and preparing for the Harlem Eat Up Festival.
Our meal consisted of a total of five dishes that day. Of course followed only after you had a few bites of the most delicious and moist cornbread with lingonberry butter. First up was Tuna Aguachile, a tuna cheviche with cilantro, avocado and fried masa. It was super fresh and the broth had a little spice to it, very nice. Next we had Yep! Chicken & Waffle, consisting of a fried chicken leg on top of a butterscotch waffle with a hot maple-chili sauce and pickles, which was outstanding. Then we had a taste of the Spring Picadilly, which is a rigatoni pasta dish with crab meat, spring peas, pecorino and shellfish broth. It was probably my personal favorite that day. Sasha followed with Poppa Eddie’s Shrimp and Grits. It was prepared with gumbo stew, chorizo, Okra, creamy stone ground grits, and yes, she added the lobster for the extra ten dollars, it was sooooo worth it. I chose Tiff’s Jerk Chicken with escovitch vegetables, tostones, and mango-garlic aioli on top of a ginger-scallion cake. I can’t say enough about this meal, and prior meals as well. The food is fresh, prepared with love, it takes you to all corners of the world, and has you scanning the menu, looking for what you’ll eat next time.
Last but not least, I want to mention the amazing cocktails at the Red Rooster bar. The bar itself is set up for ultimate patron interaction, the music is loud, but not too loud, the vibe is upbeat and positive, the drinks are yummy and off the beaten path. The cocktails we sampled that day were The Charlie Parker, made with silver tequila, chartreuse, creme de cassis, pineapple juice and lime, as well as an amazing champagne cocktail with hibiscus. There is a little terrarium in which they grow their own herbs and spices to accompany their cocktails, it’s just really, really awesome and lends to the freshest tastes in town. You too will love this place.
For more info on the Red Rooster click here