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So the point of this article was to promote the Red Rooster or is Marcus taking a writing class at some community college

  • 1 year later...
  • 6 months later...

Um, well . . . the food.

 

We were starving after yesterday's terrific Charlie Parker Jazz Festival concert at Marcus Garvey Park, and rather than try to find the African restaurant we had passed on the way from the subway, or schlep all the way over to Dinosaur, we decided to see if they could seat us at Red Rooster. They could after a short wait, at one of the shared tall tables near the bar. My first time back since the time I went with The Princess, and Paul's first ever. The noise level meant we didn't have to chat, couldn't in fact. Although I did overhear way too much of the conversation of another couple at the table. Sigh.

 

Anyway, the food. To start, a Yes, Chef cocktail for me (vodka, ginger beer, berbere [nowhere near enough to register], pineapple, and an uncredited appearance by mint leaves) and a Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA for Paul. My cocktail was okay, even though two major ingredients were among my least favorites. The guy at the table who spent the whole evening berating his dining companion was drinking Harlem Mules (scotch, ginger beer, lime, basil) that I should have gotten instead. Ah well.

 

Chili-Rubbed Lamb Tostadas and Grandpa's Gravlax as firsts. Very lamby lamb, the injera crisps had more flavor than I'm used to from injera, the yogurt with roast tomatoes was delicious, and the (also uncredited) pickled shredded cabbage was what pulled the dish together. The gravlax was cut into thick strips, with tiny pumpernickel toasts, a sort of bland but mostly comforting avocado-pea mush, some julienne green apple, and a truly delicious curry mustard.

 

Mains: the fried chicken again (I love fried chicken) and a grilled jerk pork chop. The chicken was again underseasoned (but made better with a sprinkle of salt) but juicy and very crisp, the collards still excellent as were the mashed potatoes (although they were barely tepid to start), and the very rich-feeling hot sauce was superb, adding more to the plate than the "white mace gravy" which seemed too Scandinavian. Oh, and the pickle chips were fine. $27 seems steep for the chicken, but what the hell. The pork chop was a tad overcooked, but the flavor was great, and the heat built nicely as we ate. There was also some sausage billed as bratwurst but that had a taste and mouthfeel more like breakfast sausage patty, and -- good dovetailing -- crumbled cornbread. I was glad I didn't get a side of the summer bean ragout, because a good-size portion came with.

 

For dessert we split an individual peach pie with buttermilk citrus ice cream and blackberry sauce (and vanilla whipped cream, most of which Paul plopped into his decaf, which they refilled without charge). I had to give up after about a quarter of it (5-inch diameter, not tiny), although I wished I could have eaten more of the ice cream. It was one of the best I've had, not rich, not very sweet, incredibly lemony and tangy.

 

There was a DJ playing old disco recordings.

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  • 2 years later...

It was interesting to finally go to this place for the first time, six years in.

 

Restaurants can go several ways during a period that long. They can keep trying to be a serious restaurant, holding on to their chefs or continuing to hire visionary chefs, changing the menu periodically and offering plenty of specials. Franny's has gone this way. They can fall into cynical auto-pilot. We can all think of many places that go that way. Or they can somehow hang on, maintaining decent quality with little or no apparent new kitchen input. That actually isn't so common, and it's quite admirable in its way -- although to me not very interesting. But much better than the second option.

 

Red Rooster has pretty clearly gone the third way. The menu was almost exactly the same as the one I read online when they opened. The food wasn't badly prepared at all. But some seams showed: it wasn't letter-perfect. Nor was it in any way inspired. It lacked any spark that made you think there was a person behind it. (Here I go sounding like voyager.) But that makes a difference in food, like this, that isn't generic but apparently strives to seem creative. It doesn't seem so creative when you've been doing the same things for six years.

 

I started with a cocktail that tasted mainly of chili pepper even though that wasn't disclosed as an ingredient on the list. I hate when that happens.

 

Things looked up with the Grand Lax appetizer. Some good cured salmon, some good-if-slightly-grainy salmon rillettes, and some salmon cracklings (happily not called that on the menu). Nothing wrong with this.

 

Then the fried chicken (which I was really in the mood for). Not perfect: a little bit greasy, and the crust was a bit bland. The mashed potatoes were bland as well (what do you expect, I can hear the gallery responding). The white mace gravy was fine, though, as was the spicy sauce. And, for that matter, the collard greens (which aren't as easy to do well as you might think). This wasn't in any way bad, not at all. But it was just . . . OK.

 

The bar was as mobbed as the day it opened. The dining room was far from empty, even though I came in at the last possible moment. The scores of sparklers emanating from the kitchen along with desserts suggests that people are using this as a place for celebration. So the neighborhood has clearly adopted this place -- and good for the neighborhood and good for this place. I myself can't see going here in preference to The Cecil, though -- which so far is staying resolutely in the first category I listed above.

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