Posts Tagged ‘shrimp and grits’

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”.

5&Diamond on Urbanspoon

Around the corner from Freeman’s, the taxidermy laden, clandestine tavern that has been repeatedly reviewed by food paparazzi over the years lays the charming cafe/restaurant -The National. Opened by Jeremy Hogeland and partner Julie Dickstein 7 months ago, they have dodged the press radar relatively well, a tactic to achieve their excellence before the hordes of foodies sunk their teeth in, literally! I was interested to learn that the namesake was inspired by Hotel Nacional de Cuba, featured in Godfather II .It was the  real-life La Cosa Nostra meeting spot for charismatic hoods Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, back in the 40′s, and also featured in Godfather II. Jeremy informed me that his personal vision was to practice their “schizophrenic like” menu, which was jointly created by him, Julie and Chef Zoe Feigenbaum, and incorporates endless international eats and inspirations. The decor is cafe style cozy, scattered flea market trinkets and adornments, mother of pearl shades, antique mirrors, with the Cubano style name sign splashed high above with floor to ceiling white surgically clean subway tiles that plaster the walls. Oh –by the way – if you are wondering where the tables that you are eating on are from- none other than Meyer Lansky’s old haunt- Lansky Lounge!

The National originally opened as a cafe, so hence I decided to sample the expert young barista’s handy work, that was hurriedly serving cap’s and latte’s to a fashion forward crowd at her tiny mini coffee bar. The coffee was insanely good, with just the right amount of foam to put a smile on my face on this gloomy afternoon. The space was tight, but I had adequate room at which to perform my burger surgery, seated in front of the door, I glance around at the crowed dining room filled with Euro hipsters and East Village type style mavens, undoubtedly stopping for some quick sustenance before browsing through over highly priced duds and haircuts and next doors Freeman’s Sporting ClubFrench Culinary Graduate, Chef Zoe Feigenbaum at the helm, and was busy creating in the kitchen, a selection of tasty brunch treats such as Shrimp and Grits, Lobster Roll, Jerk Pork, Fish Tacos and Banana French Toast.

Zoe’s contribution to my appetite today was The National burger, an 8 oz.  Pat La Frieda blend burger, served with colossal chunks of Smokey blue cheese, slabs of rosy red tomatoes on a toasted brioche. Jeremy Hogeland explained to me that their genius method of pan-frying the burger in a cast iron skillet, than broiling it under the Salamander, seals the juices and makes for a tenderer succulent patty. My plate arrived with a gorgeous looking specimen of burger handy work, winning top marks for looks alone. The chunks of blue cheese had a subtle coating of bronzing, just ever so slightly tanned. The brioche bun was delicately toasted with the right amount of give, when poked with my finger. The French fries were cut in exact symmetry and crispy to the taste, with a generous burst of herb after flavor. The patty itself was juicy, plump and charred to perfection, as I gorged into this delicious burger, I really tried hard to find something wrong with it, but I just couldn’t!! I thought it was pretty much as close to perfection as a bistro style burger gets, just as Lucky and Meyer were the mastermind’s of crime, The National was this day the mastermind of the burger.

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I also tasted the Fish Tacos which were crispy fried little pieces of Cod, adorned with zesty pickled cabbage, Pico de Gallo and a homemade tortilla. I can tell you as a Taco fan, these babies rated high on my list for some of the best I have ever had!  The National is a charming place for a coffee, brunch or dinner, with an evening menu that some say surpasses its more famous neighbor. So if you’re growing old waiting in line for a Freeman’s table, stop that insanity and dine at The National!!

The National