After two weeks of gastronomic heaven in New York, I still hadn’t tried any food rooted in American tradition – now whilst most may laugh at the prospect of such a cuisine existing outside the staples of burgers and pizzas, the south has a strong culinary history that has spanned hundreds of years and been influenced by the the various ethnic communities, the abundance of local produce and the native population with whom they interacted. In the vibrant neighbourhood of Harlem, is a restaurant celebrating just these very things – American comfort food rooted in the south and also that influenced by the restaurants neighbourhood. Red Rooster like many of its contemporary restaurants focuses wonderfully on the artisans and producers, farmers and suppliers that champion local produce and its lauded chef Marcus Samuelsson was also the winner of the second season of Top Chef, a show all about chefs competing against other chefs and judged by industry professionals. Needless to say, the expectations were tinged with excitement and both affectations were riding high!
Starting off with Cornbread, jam, honey butter is not a good way to begin the meal – one is in serious danger of eating nothing else but copious amournts of this heavenly, godsend, manna-esque beauty of a corn bread. It’s light and fluffy, yet rich and sinful and the accompaniments smeared on top of the warm bite of joy will have you swooning.
I can only describe my starter of Jerk bacon, fried egg, brown beans and pikliz as something I would need to have as part of my last supper. A hunk of insanely tender jerk bacon, a hefty fried egg with chilli and spice mix, an tbowl of bean stew and pikliz – Haitian pickled vegetables is just the plate of food you want to have on a Sunday – whether it’s brunch or dinner. Come to think of it, I’d have this everyday if I could!
The problem with a starter like the jerk bacon is that whatever comes after it, falls spectacularly short. I went for one of their signatures, Fried yardbird: dark meat, white mace gravy, mashed potatoes, bread and butter pickles and even though was one of the finest fried chickens I’ve had, I had no inclination to eat much of it (partly because I was so stuffed from the corn bread and the jerk bacon, but also because I wanted those flavours to linger and linger on…)
A vibrant and bustling restaurant with a great little selection of their own infused bourbons (pear, fig, peanut etc), Red Rooster is a winner and sad as it was that I couldn’t try a dessert, it just means that a return trip is imminent. Now that makes me super happy!
Recommend you go: 9