Harlem’s Opening Night at Minton’s (Review)

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Minton's Jazz

Minton’s Harlem is the rebirth of legendary jazz club Minton’s Playhouse, frequented by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian and Dizzy Gillespie, in the 1940s and ’50s.  Owner Richard Parsons (former chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner) has teamed up with Executive Chef Alexander Smalls and Chef de Cuisine Banks White to create a destination offering an exceptional experience that bridges Harlem’s past, present and future.  Mr. Parsons is also the owner of The Cecil, which is adjacent to Minton’s, and which we previously reviewed (click here for the review).

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Richard Parsons dining on opening night

As we approached the restaurant on one of Harlem’s restaurant rows, the first thing we noticed was the glowing plaque indicating that Minton’s is in The National Register of Historic Places.  That set the tone for the experience that followed.

Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted warmly by the Director of Operations  Beatrice Stein, just as she had when she greeted us at The Cecil, where she holds the same title.

The restaurant is a  wide and long though not cavernous rectangle with spacious ceilings.  It is well lit and beautifully designed with rich warm colors everywhere.  There is a nice bar to the right, and a banquet of tables lining a cloth paneled wall to your left.  You walk through this lounge-like space into the main dining room.  There you find tables lining the walls to your left and right.  Some of the walls are mirrored.  Pictures of Jazz Legends including Dizzie and Billie line the walls.  Off in the distance is a stage with a wonderful mural.  The stage features a beautiful black grand piano.  The tables are a combination of two and four tops draped in crisp white linens.  The chairs are comfortable and the tables nicely sized.  The staff is omni-present, attentive and knowledgeable.

We were seated at the first table to your right as you enter the main dining area.  From there you can take in everything while enjoying some privacy.

There are two dining options, both prix-fixe, one two course, the other a four course.  We opted for the five course.

We started off with cocktails which were generously poured.  The Lady Bird was exceptional.  We also enjoyed a variety of red and white wines throughout the evening, which are available by the glass or the bottle.

While we waited for our meal the musicians assembled and started their first of several sets.   These are top-notch Jazz musicians with years of experience.  They did not disappoint – their performances were the highlight of (and throughout) the evening.

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The first course was an appetizer sampler called the Low Country Experience.  We each received a plate containing nine sections, each with a different appetizer.  The variety was fabulous.  It felt as though the chef’s had traveled the world and selected their best fare for our tasting. Our table could have ordered several bowls of the Fried Okra wrapped in Surryano Country Ham.  Other favorites included Deviled Egg Toast with Smoked Trout and Pickled Shallot, Creminis stuffed with creamed collard greens, and Beau Soleil Oysters, Champagne Mignonette Ossetra Caviar.

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The second course consisted of Sherry She Crab Soup with Crisp Yam and Skillet Bread, Winter Apple Salad with Candied Black Walnuts, Butter Lettuce and Smoked Crabapple Vinaigrette, and Roasted Parsnip and Kabocha Squash Soup with Benne Seed Crunch and Brown Butter Creme Fraiche.

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The third course consisted of Smothered Lobster & Shrimp Caserole with Creole Crawfish Gravy an Nora Mills Pimento Cheese Grits, Wagyu Ribeye with Bone Marrow Butter, Chanterella Mushrooms, Sweet Potato Pave and Blacktruffle Glace Deviande, and Pan Seared Venison with Carmelized russel Sprouts, Dumpling Squash and Huckleberry Gastrique.

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The fourth course included Minton’s rendition of Banana Cream Pie with Sable Breton, Sour Cremem Mousse and Banana Sorghum Ice Cream.  And blackberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Bisquit and Cornbread Ice Cream (and I asked for the requisite cool glass of milk).  We ended the evening with a round of smooth and soothing Cognac.

During and after our meal Beatrice Stein, Alexander Smalls and Banks White were kind enough to stop by.  We of course let them know how much we enjoyed our time, and assured them that we would be back.

MINTON’S HARLEM Jazz Supper Club

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206 W 118th Street (St. Nicholas & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd)
New York, NY 10026
Reservations: (212)243-2222
Monday – Thursday: 5-11PM
Friday – Saturday – 5-Midnight
www.MintonsHarlem.com