For three cold weeks every January in New York City, twenty-five dollars suddenly becomes a foodie’s best friend. Restaurant Week is a chance to cross boundaries into upscale and be treated to a three-course menu at some of the city’s most-loved establishments for a reduced cost. My Restaurant Week experience at Red Rooster Harlem was chock-full of crossed boundaries.
Red Rooster’s classy decor, elegantly dressed staff and lively vibe made me feel as though I’d just walked into the 1920’s. The friendly host checked our coats and seated us promptly at a table in the middle of the open dining area, where we proceeded to peruse the Restaurant Week menu.
If ever there ever was a definition of fusion cuisine, I think Red Rooster would be it. Chef Marcus Samuelsson, of Food Network fame, combines his Ethiopian heritage with the foods of his Swedish upbringing, and gives it all a twist of the “soul” that is so present in New York City’s Harlem.
We started with an order of the famed cornbread, served with tomato jam and butter. I wasn’t hot on the oddly sweet-savory jam, but the cornbread sure set the mood for the rest of the meal. Heck — I would have eaten it as my meal.
My first course was the market greens salad, which appeared to be nothing out of the ordinary until I discovered a hearty spread of pecan puree topped with fresh goat cheese beneath the greens. Finishing off a salad has never been easier. Tell me your deep secrets, oh great pecan puree.
The main course. I ordered Helga’s meatballs with lingonberries and braised cabbage. What? Really? Yes. The sweet-tart berries somehow really complimented the gaminess of the meatballs, and the acidic qualities of the braised cabbage pulled this dish together into a big “wow.” Across the way in this photo, behold the ultra-rich, ultra-comforting NY Mac & Greens my friend ordered.
We were practically in a food coma by the time the third course came around, but saying no to dessert obviously was not an option. My coconut cupcake with homemade vanilla ice cream was the perfect cap to such a good meal.
Thank you Restaurant Week, thank you $25, thank you Marcus Sameulsson’s multi-cultural background and thank you Harlem for joining forces to create the best, most exotic meal I’ve had in 2013.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten so far this year?