Showing posts with label Valentines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Valentines. Show all posts

Friday, January 3, 2014

Toronto Feature - REVIEW: Harlem Restaurant

Harlem Restaurant

My trip to Canada concluded with dinner at  Harlem Restaurant in downtown Toronto. I tell you, this was the best food I tasted during my trip. I dinned at the 67 Richmond St. E location of the restaurant. As soon as I walked through the door I feel in love with this eatery.  +Harlem Restaurant serves Southern Caribbean cuisine.  Now, being a gal of the south and Jamaica W.I., I had to authenticate this concoction of flavor.

 

 

 

I entered the establishment as was mesmerized by the charming hanging red curtain and phonograph that lead to the main dining area. I parted the curtains and was instantly drawn in by the welcoming embrace of the eclectic environment. The  warm red covered walls, the intimate space, the beautiful assortment of color infused original paintings, created a soulful inviting atmosphere. I loved the artsy feel of the interior. The owner did an excellent job capturing the art inspired Harlem Renaissance aspect of Harlem, NY.




Harlem Restaurant





I had the delightful impromptu opportunity to sit down and chat with owner and chef Carl Cassell.

Carl Cassell
Owner/Chef  Carl Cassell


Shuga: What is the inspiration behind Harlem Restaurant?
Cassell: Harlem is the evolution of another restaurant I owned named Irie. Harlem is more inclusive of the entire diaspora. At Harlem we can provide an inclusive menu of Southern and Caribbean style of cooking. The people from the south cook food similar to the way we [Caribbean people] do. Like collard greens which would be our [Jamaicans] version of callaloo.

Shuga: How long has Harlem been in existence?
Cassell: We have been opened for 7 years. 

Shuga: Why did you choose Harlem as the name of restaurant?
Cassell: Harlem is instantly recognizable. I wanted to evoke a response in people that they'll never forget it. Positive or negative, I wanted it to leave "you" with an impression. That's what I wanted to do, "kick the door open."

Shuga: What is the inspiration behind the decor?
Cassell:  The decor is inspired by the 1920's. The original name was Harlem 1920. As you come through the door you will see the phonograph. It's kind of a 1920's art deco feel. The deep red....gives it a bold feel.

Shuga: I understand you have weekly live entertainment.
Cassell:  Yes. That was kind of our mantra. That's what created Harlem in a sense. When I had Irie, which has been converted into a Harlem as well, it kind of became the place to meet people. I've been in the city [Toronto] for a while and half of my friends are artists, actors, musicians and Irie became  like an impromptu music venue. So when this place [Harlem] opened the idea was to create an artistic space which we provide with a stage upstairs.

Harlem Restaurant has two floors, both of which feature dining rooms with candlelit tables. The top floor has a stage where weekly entertainment is presented.

Top floor stage

After my Q&A, it was time to taste the delicious food. The menu was mounted on a vinyl record which a found to be quite clever. It really tied into the rustic chic theme. There were so many lip-smacking choices.  I had a difficult time choosing. Thankfully Carl Cassell provided some excellent suggestions, and oh was it extraordinary roller coaster ride for my taste buds.

Menu
I went with a group of friends so I was able to sample a few dishes. I started with a Miles Davis cocktail which was a mix of  Jamaican Overproof Rum, Peach Schnapps, mango, passion fruit juice and lemon. Cassell said that was a signature drink for Harlem.  It tasted smooth and was mixed just right. Next I sampled the Harlem Kool-Aide. This drink was made with Triple Sec, Melon Liquor and cranberry juice. It tasted tangy and sweet with just the right amount of alcohol. It was simply superb.

Harlem Restaurant
Miles Davis

Harlem Restaurant
Harlem Kool -Aide


We started by sharing a plate of Catfish Lafayette , which was breaded deep fried morsels of catfish served with a sweet chilli mayonnaise sauce for dipping. The breading was seasoned well and the catfish was light and flaky. The dipping sauce added an extra kick. However, I also found the catfish quite scrumptious on its own.  

Harlem Restaurant
Catfish Lafayette



Harlem Restaurant
Mac- n - Cheese
The baked Mac-n-Cheese sprinkled with Parmesan cheese was hearty, creamy and satisfying .  


Blackened Salmon 
Blackened Salmon is a creole inspired dish-- salmon topped with a seafood ├ętoufee sauce, served with mixed greens and coconut rice and peas. The interesting part of this dish was the mixed greens which was collard greens infused with carrots and celery. I have never had collard greens prepared in such a manner. I found it quite pleasing.


BBQ Jerk Chicken
The BBQ Jerk sauce really made the dish. The sauce was sweet with a hint of spice. I loved it so much I asked for a small container to carry home.

Coconut rice and peas
Rice is a very important componet to the Caribbean dish. This rice was fluffy and light with a pleasant hint of coconut flavor. It came very close to the sweetness of my mother's cooking.

Harlem Restaurant
Chicken and Waffles

The signature dish of Harlem is Chicken and Waffles. First, the presentation of the dish was the best I have ever seen. I have been to many restaurants that serve this dish and Harlem's presentation is the most attractive. I love that the chicken came with three dipping sauces - sweet and sour, maple syrup, and scotch-bonet-corriander-lime gravy. The chicken was exquisitely prepared --juicy, tender meat, covered in a thick, crispy batter. One bite and I feel under it's sinfully delicious spell. The waffles were fluffy with a tasty buttermilk flavor.



Mango Chiffon Cheese cake

My meal concluded with a signature slice of  Mango chiffon cheese cake. The delectable dessert was velvety light and heavenly extraordinary.

The dinner was accompanied by a comedy show presented by one of Toronto's top comedians +Quinn Martin. He was very entertaining and a great complement to a satisfying evening.

Quinn C Martin
Quinn C Martin - Comedian

Overall, my experience at Harlem Restaurant  was filled with appetizing foods, gracious portion sizes, friendly service and excellent entertainment. The restaurant provided a great taste of the traditional South with new twists of flavors. I truly had a marvelous time and look forward to returning in the future. So, next time your in Toronto, stop on by Harlem Restaurant  for a roller coaster ride your taste-buds will never forget.  Harlem Restaurant -East





Harlem on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

FEATURE: New Euro - Soul Restaurant Opens in Rosedale, Queens


ROSEDALE, QUEENS, NY

As I roamed around this past weekend looking for new and interesting things to report, I stumbled upon a new eatery in Rosedale, Queens called Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge.  This rare jewel serves what the owners call Euro Soul food which is a fusion of Mediterranean, Moroccan and Caribbean Soul food. Sounds delicious I know. I strolled in and was blown away by the beautiful Moroccan inspired decor. Highlights of the luxurious interior included dazzling chandlers dripping with clear glass drops that sparkled in the light, tall soft cushioned silver seats, and a illuminating bar stocked with the finest top shelf drinks. The upscale furnishings provides a Manhattan chic with local comfort.


I was introduced to manger Mel Renci who gave me the grand tour. On our walk down to the lounge area he explained that Pa-Nash is a family owned business. The owners, who wish to remain anonymous are from Ocho Rios, Jamaica W.I. Renci said the owners wanted to provided the Queens community with a new food sensation. The restaurant opened Tuesday, November 18th. The restaurant is currently in its introductory stage. Renci stated the grand opening is scheduled to happen during the Christmas holiday. An official date has not yet been announced.




The lounge area, called the Euro Soul Lounge, located on the lower level is truly striking. Here I really saw the Mediterranean Moroccan style come together. The furniture included wall to wall leather seats coated in rich warm colors of yellow, red and chocolate, complemented with beautifully beaded pillows. There were mosaic textured walls that added visual depth. Overall, a really vibrant charming space. The Euro Soul Lounge also provides weekly live entertainment. The music varies from Classic R&B, Smooth Jazz and Reggae. The entertainment is presented by JT Mac Productions.







Now, on to the food which was quite delicious. The menu featured many interesting combinations of food.  Renci recommended I try the Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll. He said if I tried nothing else on the menu I must have that dish. So I did. The Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll is a signature appetizer. It is made with asiago, white cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. I found it very clever that someone thought of the idea to put mac and cheese in an egg roll. It had a delightful crunchy texture with a creamy cheese filling.
Three Cheese Penne Mac & Cheese Roll

Next I tried the Fig Glazed Chicken Wings served with Hot Chile Sauce presented on a bed of spinach. The meat on the tender wings practically melted off the bone filling my mouth with a bust of sweet spicy flavor.  The meal was complemented by the signature Pa-Nash Coconut Martini.

Fig Glazed Chicken Wings

Coconut Martini

Other delightful delectable include Grilled Pomegranate Glazed Jumbo Shrimp, Toasted Coconut & Almond Crusted Salmon over Buttered Cabbage, Pistachio Crumbled Lamb Chops with Rosemary Syrup and Israeli Cous-Cous plus many more. The specialty drinks include Fresh Pineapple Mojito, Lemon Drop Martini and Orange Mint Tea.

Pa - Nash is located at 144-14 243rd Street in Rosedale, Queens.  The restaurant is opened Tuesday to Thursday 5pm - 10pm, Friday -Sat 5pm - 12pm and Sunday 11am - 8pm. Live music can be enjoyed Thursday - Saturday 9pm -1pm and Sunday 4pm - 7pm.


So, if your looking for a restaurant with great food, elegant flair, friendly service, amazing live music and local comfort, Pa- Nash is for you. Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge where their motto is life with a bit of Pa-Nash!