After a long, rough week, mom and I ventured to northern Manhattan today on a whim. It was an absolutely beautiful day that we knew couldn’t be wasted, so we walked all the way up north along Central Park to hang out in Harlem and ended up hungry enough to wander into The Cecil for brunch.
The Cecil, created by New York businessman Richard Parsons and noted restaurateur and chef Alexander Smalls, is New York City’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie.
Inspired by the travels, exploration and study of the African Diaspora of Chef Smalls, The Cecil will offer a global adventure in tastes and flavors as diverse and dynamic as the community in which the restaurant resides. Its goal is to connect communities through food, comfort and hospitality.
The Mavericks had a delicious meal there a couple of months ago during NYC Restaurant week and we were blown away by the experience. I’d been trying to figure out a way to get back there to show someone else to their eclectic menu, and I knew my mom would be game. (I will add here that she’s a tougher critic than I am.) Their brunch menu seemed just as exciting as their dinner fare, so my mouth was already watering as the hostess guided us to our seats.
First up was to try their brunch cocktail, the Kimchi Bloody Mary. Instead of the usual tomato juice, they used pureed Korean kimchi and its juice to mix with vodka–it was kind of like drinking a Korean gazpacho on ice. Although it took some getting used to, I quite enjoyed it; even though my mom said it was too different for her and that she wasn’t crazy about it, I noticed that she kept reaching for my glass, so her review on this item is neither here nor there…
Next came our Mac n Cheese appetizer; we were curious to try their version, as it had aged white cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, caramelized shallots and rosemary. It was perfectly gooey and just rich enough. The rosemary made it feel a bit lighter and the sweetness of the shallots complimented the sharpness of the cheeses. Well played! Even though we were getting full already, we dug into our entrees, splitting them amongst each other. We ordered Duck Confit & Yam Waffles with Papaya Sauce and Roti Pizza (oxtail, aged cheddar cheese and 2 fried eggs over top). The duck was basic, but good; the yam in their batter made the waffles super moist and lent them a delicate sweetness that balanced the savory duck quarter. However, the dish could have used more papaya sauce because there simply wasn’t enough to accompany each bite. No one enjoys dry waffles–YES, they were moist, but what’s a waffle without syrup (in this case, papaya sauce)?! I rest my case. The Roti Pizza was good, but aged cheddar didn’t seem the right choice of cheese in this instance. The oxtail was delicious–a thick black bean oxtail stew spread across the roti in place of a tomato base. The sunny side up eggs were like smiley faces on the roti, adding the right amount of moisture to the dish, and giving me a smiley face in return. We finished every bite, leaving our plates completely empty and our bellies filled to capacity. We had to walk back home to make room for coffee and dessert!
Although The Cecil’s menu isn’t for everyone–I believe one must have a somewhat adventurous palette to appreciate some of their concoctions– I believe there is something on both of their menus for all to try. I love a good burger as much as the next guy, but I do need a culinary pick-me-up once in a while and The Cecil provides exactly that. Even though we enjoyed their brunch, I think dinner is their stronger suit and will travel back uptown with her on any given evening to repeat my previous nighttime excursion. She needs to understand why they won awards and why they’ve received so much well-deserved laud, not from me but real critics and reviewers.
Besides, how can I not revisit a place that basically describes my genetic makeup?! I’m just saying. That can’t be a coincidence… I might just have to tell them to rename the restaurant “The Vickylicious.” After they make their brunch as noteworthy as their dinner, that is.