Hearty: The Mac and Greens served at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant is described by this reviewer as ‘a truly memorable experience’. *Photo by Glenn Jones
Hearty: The Mac and Greens served at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant is described by this reviewer as ‘a truly memorable experience’. *Photo by Glenn Jones
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A meal at the acclaimed Red Rooster in Harlem has surprising similarities to the cuisine in Bermuda making its celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson, a strong candidate to have a restaurant here that is popular among locals.

Moments after you sit in the quaint 76-seat dining room, delightfully hospitable servers supply generous portions of corn bread.  The tomato jam condiment is a dead ringer for mom’s red sauce ,served lovingly alongside codfish and
potato breakfast to generations of Bermudians.

If codfish and potatoes is a Bermudian tradition, then macaroni and cheese is a country pass time.  At Red Rooster they call it Mac & Greens. The macaroni portion is so hearty, so indulgent, they might do less injury to your body if they hit you over the head with the cast iron skillet it’s served in.  But alas, ingesting the dish is far more delightful than a concussion. Greens are served on the side to relieve some of the guilt.  I tried it with lobster and it was truly a memorable experience.

Not more memorable than the Chicken and Waffle appetizer, however.  

Among soul food restaurants the dish is predictable, almost cliché. At Red Rooster, though, they reimagined it. 

The waffles inspire thoughts of Belgium and the chicken couldn’t be any better off if endorsed by Colonel Sanders himself.  

I have to believe even Roscoe House of Chicken & Waffles founder (and Harlem native) Herb Hudson would tip his cap.  

The maple syrup is infused with bourbon — a move that deserves no objections. I recommend a side of collard greens too — lighter and more delightful here than when the dish is stewed with pork. 

In Bermuda, Red Rooster’s chicken and waffles would stop traffic in the same way Herb has done out in Los Angeles for decades. 

I’m considering a chicken and waffles petition drive because I’m told Chef Samuelsson hasn’t made any final decisions on the Bermuda menu for 2015.  Feedback from the pop-up restaurant, now open, probably will help him decide, but no chicken and waffles on the menu there either. 

For seafood lovers, Blackened Catfish is a fine choice. The fish is from the Gulf of Mexico, delivered to Harlem from Mississippi. And Chef Colby, manning the kitchen on this day, says he serves more high-pressure fried Oysters and Wings than any other dish. It’s at the top of the appetizers menu and top of mind for repeat visitors to the neighbourhood-style eatery.

Busy

On Lenox Avenue just off 125th Street in Harlem, the restaurant is as lively as the busy New York streetscape outside.  

A bongo drummer in the entry way, a US World Cup game on at the 20-seat bar and standing room only for those seeking a table make Red Rooster feel like Port ‘O Call on a summer Friday evening — not overcrowded, but certainly lively.

While you wait for your table you may order a Dark n’ Stormy, poured and delivered with the same pride as if Malcolm Gosling made it himself.

Beware though: it’s not the same drink; the ginger beer is made in-house.  

The Bermuda version is better. Instead try the Yes, Chef cocktail. It’s named after Chef Samuelsson’s memoir. I haven’t read the book, but if it’s half as good as this vodka, pineapple, ginger beer and fresh mint leaf concoction, then it must be a delicious read. 

There will be an opportunity to meet Chef Samuelsson this Friday at his pop-up restaurant at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess.
He will be signing copies of his book “Yes Chef: A Memoir” from 5pm to 6:30pm.On July 12 the chef will host an intimate fundraiser for 50 guests at the restaurant to raise money for the Bermuda Hospitals Charitable Trust.
Tickets are $250. Call 298-0156 or email troylenec@bhct.bm