Date night at Red Rooster in Harlem
I was sooo excited that we had a seven o’clock reservation at Marcus Samuellson’s Red Rooster. We hadn’t been on a real date, alone in the city in so long. Last Sunday, finally, after months of mishaps, anticipation, and numerous disappointments for varied reasons, finally, we had had an embryo transfer. We suddenly found ourselves in that mythical place of being, perhaps, for real “a little pregnant”. We’re in limbo until Wednesday, waiting for that agonizing first Beta HCG test to see whether or not we could consider ourselves really one plus weeks pregnant. The night out was a welcome respite from sitting at home wondering “Are we? Aren’t we?”
I had made the reservation several weeks ago, since that is what it takes to get a Saturday 7PM table. The day finally arrived and it was a gorgeous late summer day in Manhattan. The temperature was just right, in the low 80s and dry, and we had passed a lazy afternoon hanging out on a blanket with our dog in Carl Shurz Park – something we rarely take the time to do. We came home and I started watching a documentary on the Maya and fell asleep…at 6:20PM, I jolted awake and realized that “OH S$%# we had almost slept through our reservation !”
Thank goodness we made it, and just in time. From the first moment, I was in love. The place exudes color, warmth and eclectic good taste. The clientele was a reflection of that as well, and probably the most diverse group of people I’ve ever co-dined with. Not only were people of different races, they were of all different ages (including many kids), different states of dress, and probably different zip codes (there were a fair number of tourists).
From the onset, the staff was all attentive and courteous. We were seated almost immediately and given a comfortable table. Although the restaurant was full, we didn’t feel claustrophobic by any means.
I came in hungry and I was intent on trying as much as I could, so we started our meal with some appetizers. I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes and Roberto had the Crab Cakes. I repeat, I was in love. I haven’t had something so delicious in a long time. The tomatoes came with a wedge of lettuce drizzled with a homemade buttermilk ranch dressing. Simply delicious. For Roberto, the Crab Cakes were also amazing with a tart pickled jalapeno tartar sauce that he enjoyed immensely.
We followed that up with the signature Helga’s Meatballs for me and the Jerk Chicken for him. The meatballs were really tasty and were served bathing in a delicious brothy type sauce. They were accompanied by lingonberries, braised green cabbage and mashed potatoes. Definitely stick to your ribs stuff. I tried to cut my meatballs into as many small pieces as humanly possible so that I could drag out the awesomeness. The cabbage was good too, but almost a distraction from the delicate yumminess of those meatballs. Roberto reports that the chicken was juicy and served with a tangy slaw which is said to be a pineapple relish but he thought tasted more like jicama. He also got a side order of Mexican street corn which he had no trouble gobbling up with its delicious chilified mayo side spread.
After how good everything was, and what a nice time we were having, I had to try dessert too. We decided to split an order of the Sweet Potato Doughnuts. They served our coffee and tea, but there was no sign of the doughnuts for a few minutes so we made so bold as to ask the waitress if perhaps they had been forgotten. And she explained that each order was made fresh, so that is why it took a bit of time. In an instant she brought them to us, and furthermore surprised us with a bonus order of the Ginger-Peach Cobbler. They were both really really good. We ended up devouring the cobbler, which was topped with vanilla ice cream and we took the bulk of the doughnuts home. She also gave us a freebie of a tin from the line of fancy teas that Samuellson is selling which are called Ambessa.
Overall, it was the best dining experience I’ve had in a long time. The place blew other recent restaurants we’ve been to out of the water. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other temptations on the menu.
Incidentally, there is a jazz supper club down in the basement (Ginnie’s) which we didn’t get to see, but I would be curious to check out on another visit.