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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Red Rooster

Price: $$$
Forks: 8

310 Malcolm X Boulevard
Harlem, NY10027
Red Rooster was on my list, and has been for a while. I have a minor obsession with the head chef, Marcus Samuelsson, as I think his background, story, and of course talent, are fascinating and inspiring. I’m also a sucker for Southern food. Well, for my birthday my DEAR friend Shein *Andrew to strangers* told me he wanted to take me to dinner. Since I had planned him a surprise party, *you’re welcome J* he wanted to make it a surprise and pick the place, so he told me to send him my “list.” Now, I’m sure you all have a list, and if you don’t, start one. When we hopped in a cab and he told the driver the address was in Harlem I knew immediately where we were headed and MAN was I excited. We pulled up to what seemed to be another world; a light strung, hopping restaurant that was blasting reggae music. When we walked in, we were truly transported. A DJ was spinning the tunes right next to the door, a circular bar filled the front room, and a cool, hip, and what I’d like to describe as “extremely chilled rastafariean-esque crowd” was gathered round. 
 how chic
 This place had a kickin vibe and it was awesome. I just felt cooler being in the room. What was not so awesome, however, was the 30 minute wait for our table. Are they too cool to seat us? Not fun. Once we were seated at small communal tables, it was all made better by the fact that I had a kitchen view. Happy Birthday enough right there.  I longingly gazed as sizzling chops, steaming collard greens, and other soulful dishes were being rushed and bussed constantly.
 The menu was simple and not very long, but boasted a variety of options. To start, we went for the Jerk Bacon & Egg and the side of cornbread. Served over a thick mixture of smoky brown beans were two plump seared pieces of jerk rubbed pork belly, a runny fried egg, and a spicy cabbage slaw. The pork belly was tender, just fatty enough, and totally melted in your mouth. The jerk rub gave it a flavor jolt, an unusual taste that was more then welcomed. Combined with the richness of the runny egg and the intensely flavored beans it was a crazy Southern/Jamaican spin on my favorite breakfast foods. Throw in the spicy cabbage slaw to lighten the whole dish up, and it was perfection. We loved, this was Shein's favorite.
Then came the cornbread, which I had heard praise and admiration for. It came accompanied by honey butter and a tomato jelly and while it looked like any cornbread I’d had before, upon eating it I was skyrocketed into flavor town. It was heavenly and sweet, boasting whole kernels of corn that lavishly soaked up its accompaniments. If butter wasn’t so bad for me, I’d be eating this by the bucketful. Towards the end of the dish it was more like, “did I want some corn bread with my butter?” status. Tehe.
Next came our entrĂ©es, the Fried Yard Bird and the Pork Loin. The Fried Yard Bird, Red Rooster’s take on fried chicken, was good. Was it amazing? No. Was it all that it was cracked up to be? No. It was fine, the spicy seasoning it was served with was good but overall it was just a moderate fried chicken. Slightly disappointing when you're expecting the best fried chicken in the world.
 prettttty crispy.
The Grilled Pork Loin, however, was incredible. Topped with a boldly flavored spring mushroom ragu and sweet pea tendrils, this was just insane. It was perfectly cooked and super tender, literally lip-smacking status. Apart from the actually meat itself, the peas and mushroom topping carried the same killer juices and flavors yet maintained their vegetable lightness. It was awesome.
Yes it was for my birthday, but sometimes when you’re so full you can barely stand up, leaving dessert for next time is just a reason to come back. SO that's what we’ll have to do. Red Rooster’s atmosphere is amazing, stellar 10, and I give the food a 7.3,  so overall an 8. My soul left feeling well fed and loved. WHAT a birthday treat. Do I have a good pal or what?


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