I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster. He was one of the pivotal figures in my obsession with food. One of my first memorable fine dining experiences was NY restaurant week (many, many years ago) while he was still the chef there. I still remember the goat cheese ice cream I had for dessert. It was unexpected and delectable. I’ve never been disappointed by one of Marcus’ projects and I am glad to say that Red Rooster did not disappoint.
I was there last Sunday for brunch. Foodie friends had told me that he tends to leave a table or two open for regulars. This means that you can in theory drop by with no resos and get lucky. I had no such luck, but the wait was only 30 minutes. Live music filled the upstairs with warmth and joy. The music convinced us to dine at the bar.
Our server was damn good. He was friendly without being overwhelming. The restaurant has an effortless, comfortable vibe. As a food writer I know there must be quite a bit of rigorous training and rules, but there’s no way to tell while you are sitting there. The service is impeccably effortless.
As we sat at Red Rooster, we kept contemplating why we resided on the UWS. In comparison, our area is boring, antiseptic…suddenly we were considering a move to Harlem…bigger apartments, maybe a real kitchen, and great food. It could work.
The menu was simple. I love that. I think restaurants should offer just a few dishes that they do incredibly well. I fear a crowded menu. Since I’m a fried chicken kinda gal, I went ahead and ordered the Fried Yard Bird. It cost $22 and came with perfectly fried pieces of dark meat. They were super crunchy on the outside, super juicy on the inside, and quite flavorful. The spices were not my favorites, but this is merely a preference thing…this was incredibly good fried chicken. The mashed potatoes were lovely and I kept wishing for more of their delicious gravy. Did I mention that the dish came with sweet pickles and a sriracha ketchup? Double win.
Antonio opted for the Red Rooster Burger ($19). He is not an easy palate to please. When he told me that this was the best burger he had in months, I knew I had to try it. He was right. This burger competes with the Standard Hotel’s burger and Jeanne & Gaston’s burger. It comes on a pretzel bun with NY cheddar and the most delicious Parmesan fries. Greedy, gluttonous me kept wishing for some truffle oil (which is not real, but damn I love umami) to drizzle all over those delicious fries. His dish was the winner for the day.
Mom got the Bunny Chow ($19). Nope, not bunny (sadly – I love me some Bugs). It was a lamb stew served on a sesame bun with a fried egg and ricotta cheese. I’ll start by telling you that I think everything should have a bird egg on it. I love few things more than a deliciously runny egg. There was a touch of heat on the lamb. This was a delectable sandwich. Although I think the burger will win on my next visit, the Bunny Chow will be a close contender.
Next time, I think I’ll try Gospel Brunch downstairs.
Red Rooster is located at 310 Lenox Avenue Harlem, NY 10027 (212) 792-9001
Take the 2 or 3 train to 125th Street.