Red Rooster hit my list of places I wanted to try as soon as Marcus Samulesson took the set of Top Chef Masters. I remember watching him for the season, and being intrigued by his unique background, and seemingly uncanny ability to deliver every time. The judges seemed consistently happy, and I figured if they liked it, it was a pretty good shot I would be ok with it. So, when Ashley’s brother suggested we meet there for brunch, I had said yes before she got “Roo” completely out of her mouth.
Now, a few years back, it may have been a little more difficult to get me to venture into Harlem. But with the promise of good food, I was more than willing to go, and we made our way to the brightly lit cafe. The heat wave made the outside unbearable, so we asked for a seat inside, and were more than willing to wait out the 20 minutes until the table was ready. It would give us a chance to talk over Bloody Mary’s and listen to the jazz music being played by the live band.
Upstairs the restaurant was open and bright. The U-shaped bar is a prominent feature right at the front with the hostess stand to the right. The place was packed with people but we were able to slide in and place our order. Downstairs, the entire area was a bit darker, and a bit more rambunctious as it hosted a Sunday morning gospel choir brunch and service. The sounds and energy coming from the room were straight out of the mental picture of Harlem on a Sunday morning and made me smile.
The brunch menu was full of classic items, but with a twist. There were things like biscuits and red eye gravy and smoked salmon with a fennel puree. I decided that I was in a hash mood and went for the lamb has expecting nicely cooked chunks of lamb with some tomatoes and potatoes and onions. Needless to say I was surprised when a baking dish appeared in front of me fully of what looked like a hearty stew, with an egg on top of it.
The meal was a bit of a struggle for me. On one hand the stew was pretty delicious. It was spicy and flavorful with perfectly cooked lamb. The spices were new and different and fun. But at the same time, I was expecting something more similar to hash, and on a hot day when I was drinking hot coffee, this was just a bit too much. There was this total confusion on my palate and in my mind when it came to the dish.
I ended up finishing the “hash”, a testament to it’s overall quality, and polished off a piece of excellent, slightly sweet cornbread topped with fresh tomato jam. But I left feeling not underwhelmed, but more confused as to the interpretations and the flavors and the fact that something like that would be on the menu on a day that was as hot as t was. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t the experience I was expecting. I hope to have the opportunity to go back and update this post because I think the food is very good.
Final verdict – 3.5 stars