After forty years of deterioration, Harlem’s population began to see a speedy increase sociocultural changes in the late 1990s. This was due to a change in federal and state laws and policies, including a concerted effort by local crime fighters to clean up, and wash out the bad element that plagued the area. In 1994, when the city began supplying funds for the area, it increased the property value rapidly to approximately 300% today-even President Bill Clinton moved in. Despite all of these positive changes the folks in Harlem have had little to experience as far as fine dining goes, maybe a fried chicken leg or bowl of collards-not that was a bad thing. Finally 5 and Diamond Restaurant has arrived, a neat modest little restaurant serving a loud and exciting menu, complete with a mouth-watering fat-back burger, to a culinary starved and growing neighborhood.
Chef de cuisine David Santos, told me “The neighborhood was really crying out for a good brunch/dinner place, people are stopping me on the street and thanking me”. Chef/Owner Ryan Skeen, of such restaurants as Resto,The General Greene, Irving Mill and Allen and Delancey, teamed with local Harlemer’s Lia San Filippo and Selene Martinez to open 5 and Diamond. After some reality show worthy controversy, the team seems to be on a smooth, less dramatic course. The brunch menu is a touch of Southern home comfort featuring; Cornmeal Griddle Cakes with banana walnut butter,Yogurt Granola with fresh fruit, Buttermilk Biscuits with homemade apple butter, Tracy’s Canadian Fried Chicken, and David Santos’s Shrimp and Grits Hush puppies with smoked paprika aioli. The dinner menu was a solid Mediteranean/American feel,featuring Cavendish Quail and Liege Salad,Rabbit Sugo Parpardelle, 28 day Aged Creekstone Bone-in Shell Steak with roasted mushrooms,creamed Tuscan kale and tobacco onions.
I sat in the window seat surrounded by a modern Japanese-esque style decor with antique style steel bay windows. There is a sleek counter bar where patrons can order from a bar menu highlighting Grilled Prawns with Papa’s Fritas and Gruyere and Mimolette Mac n Cheese. The Pat Lafrieda burger,was perfected by Skeen at his last venture, and is carefully constructed with a 60%/30% blend of beef cheek, bavette and pork fat back-which is ground on-site daily. This “heart stopper” was a gorgeous, 6 oz creation slathered with luscious white cheddar cheese, fresh homemade vinegar dill pickles, red onion and lettuce-all stacked on a char-soft potato bun. I started with a tasting of the Buttermilk Biscuits with creamy-fruity homemade apple butter, which were divine. The Shrimp and Grits Hush puppies followed, with smoked paprika aioli-these “puppies” were crispy and delectably fantastic ! The Yogurt Granola with plump strawberries and blackberries was fresh and delightful. After this bevy of pleasure it was burger time, the pork-beef beast arrived open-faced with duck fat fried home fries in tow. I carefully stacked the green leafy lettuce and crunchy dill pickles into a towering impressive looking sandwich. The first bite was juicy and bloody, pork fat back ran over my hands as my eyes rolled back in my head, my thought was, ” These guys are onto something here ! ” The burger flavor was salty, robust and aromatic, accented by the tartness of the vinegar dills and a buttery potato bun. The fries however, were not my favorite, tasting kind of stale and greasy. The 5 and Diamond burger was definitely one of my favorites in the city, for the hearty eaters there is a Texas Burger version with fried egg and bacon that sparked my interest too-maybe next time.
5 and Diamond, is worth the trip North, so if you’re the type that thinks that there’s no treasures above 59th Street, slip on your loafers and grab a taxi to Harlem. The bad element that was once part of this hood, is transforming into young urban yupsters with an appetite for Noveau chic cuisine. The tasting menu that showcases Sea Urchin,Seafood Tagliatelle, Rabbit and Ratatouille Sausage Spaetzle, Duo of Lamb and Spiced glazed Doughnuts is a steal at $50 with wine pairing $85.00. Thank-you to Chef David Santos and Ryan Skeen for making my brunch-“a spa experience for my mouth”.