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The Cecil Restaurant in Harlem (Review)

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The Cecil Restaurant in Harlem

We recently dined at Harlem’s newest upscale restaurant The Cecil. It was a night to remember.  And we look forward to our next visit.

The Cecil was created by New York businessman Richard Parsons and chef Alexander Smalls.  It 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.”

Alexander Smalls of Cafe Beulah fame is in charge of the food here and at Minton’s which is just next door and will be opening this month.  Joseph Johnson, known as Chef JJ, is in the kitchen.  And Jenny Lee is the pastry chef.

The Cecil is in lower central Harlem, a few blocks north from the 2/3 train, the Harlem Meer in Central Park, and adjacent to Jazz club Minton’s, formerly known as Mintons’ Playhouse, which is in the National Register of Historic Places.

Our party of four entered through the main door.   The receptionists to our right greeted us warmly and whisked us passed tables along a long window bank to the right and a large bar area to the left into a beautiful, high ceilinged, spacious room – completely unexpected and a refreshing surprise.

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The Cecil – Press Release

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We were fortunate enough to be seated at the chef’s table which is a wonderful booth located such that we could take in the comings and goings of staff and diners all evening long.

The service was excellent and attentive from beginning to end.   This was no doubt a tribute to Beatrice, the Director of Operations, who has known one of our fellow diners for many years, and who spent time with us throughout the night.

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We started our meal with several wonderful cocktails made by bartenders whose pedigree includes one of the city’s best bars 67 Orange, where making fine drinks is an art form.

We were then presented with an assortment of appetizers.  The Hand-Made Bread Basket was tasty and included several dipping sauces that were smooth and rich.  The Collard Green Salad and the Spinach and Black Lentil Salad were fresh, crisp and very well seasoned.  The Afro / Asian / American Oxtail Dumplings were nestled in a smooth sauce with a hint of curry and were mouth-watering.  The Broiled Giant Spicy Prawns were fiery with a Piri Piri Sauce resting on a flavorful Yam Flapjack.  And the Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid was also good paired with Okra and accompanied by a Sweet Chili Peanut Sauce.  The appetizers  were plentiful and a delicious preview of the main courses to come.

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Our main courses consisted of the very flavorful Rice and Vegetable Wok Bar with Sweet Brown Rice and Wok Prawns, Moist Gullah Jumbo Shrimp Burger, perfectly cooked Grilled Beef Petite Tenderloin and delicious Black Benne Seed Ahi Tuna.  Conversation at our table stopped as we enjoyed every bite of our meals.  Difficult as it was to share, we all tried a little of each others’ meals.  The steak was especially memorable – large, lean, grilled and savory.  The Ahi Tuna was PERFECT.  Nice sized pieces cooked rare with Bok Choy, Coriander Yusu, Curry Crunch along with Chinese Sausages.  Really unique and worth trying.  Also highly recommended by Alexander Smalls himself was the Cinnamon Scented Fried Guinea Hen.  We will have to try this on our next visit.

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Black Benne Seed Ahi Tuna

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Our meal was topped off with a variety of warm and cold treats, one of which was a rice pudding creme brûlée accompanied with lycgee ice cream.  Amazing.

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Rice Pudding Creme Brûlée

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During our stay our meal was punctuated by visits from Alex and Beatrice, as well as our wonderful server, all of whom helped us navigate the richness of the experience that is Cecil’s.

The crowd was cosmopolitan and well dressed.  The Saturday night that we were there, Melissa Harris-Perry and Joy-Ann Reid were sitting in the bar / lounge area, and the following evening, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon stopped by for dinner.

The decor consists of dark tones and leathers with mesh textures.  The entrance lounge and bar area are separate from the main dining room  – we really liked the layout.  At night with the lighting, artwork and grand scale of everything, this really comes into full effect.  The space is airy, has a wide variety of seating options, soaring ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows with just the right kind of blinds (almost appeared as a mesh like material from where we were sitting) to keep things private while not closing you in.  Their artwork is very interesting, big in scale yet not busy or overcrowded.  Better to have a few select pieces of art than many mediocre ones. One of our favorites is a sculpture of sorts which is the centerpiece of the bar, and which is really not to be missed.  The light fixtures are very interesting as well.  In particular the one below which is located in the entrance.

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Lighting in the entrance

The food is a collage of flavors from afrika and asia, so well blended that they will have you longing for another visit.

The Cecil
210 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10026
(212) 866-1262
thececilharlem.com  

Previous post (NEW) The Cecil – Opens Today In Harlem

(NEW) The Cecil – Opens Today In Harlem

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Broiled Giant Spicy Prawns, Yam Flapjack, Piri Piri Sauce.

The highly anticipated Cecil opens today with a frenzy of social media flying in as fast as they possibly can just to experience what all the buzz is about.  We here at Harlem Condo Life are among the enthusiastic media, and look forward to our first time experience with Cecil.  We have high hopes  for this old meets  new establishment and newest addition to Harlem Restaurant Row.  They have our attention with small plates such as “Broiled Giant Spicy Prawns, Yam Flapjack, with Piri Piri Sauce” (above ) and “Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid with Okra and Sweet Chili Peanut Sauce.”  Or a shared bowl for two of Afro / Asian / American Gumbo (Smoked Turkey, Chinese Chicken Sausage, Gulf Shrimp, and Crabmeat)

Take a peek at Cecil’s menu (below) with a scrumptious assortment by – Chefs Alexander Smalls – Restauranteur, and Joseph “JJ” Johnson – Chef de Cuisine.

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The Cecil MENU.  Here is a photo they sent us of their sticky buns.  I don’t know about dinner, but I am ready for these sticky buns right now!  They also were recently written up in the Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter and The Wall Street Journal.  Both The Cecil and Minton’s were mentioned in Huff Post BLACK VOICES and one dish in particular that stood out to us was the “Black Benne Seed Ahi Tuna.”  Looks delicious.

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photo by Lucy Schaeffer for Huff Post

So let’s get our forks and knives ready, and go experience the new CECIL together.  I’m up for the adventure and ready to dig in.  See you all there!

The Cecil
210 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10026
Tel (212) 866-1262

The Cecil New Restaurant in Harlem

Black is Beautiful and a Harlem Photographer is Out to Prove It

A Harlem-based photographer has come out in support of the black community in response to the heinous, borderline racist article published in the Psychology Today journal. The article, titled ‘Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive than Other Women?’ by psychologist Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa sparked fury amongst the black community worldwide and while some were busy getting angry, Harlem-photographer Paul Phillips took it upon himself to prove the opposite.

Beauty in Black

Paul Phillips plans to get together some of the women from all around the country to show exactly how beautiful and stunning they are, in both personality and appearance and his collection of photos is to be published in a weighty coffee table tome entitled Beauty in Black. Of course, to finance his project, Phillips needed to make significant steps in moving money to make sure the funds he needed were available but through setting up a Kickstarter page, he began to raise funds for his project.

Phillips has come out strongly against these hurtful and mistaken statements made by Kanazawa and others by showing exactly how strong and beautiful black women can be. He plans to travel all across the States to find black women in a diverse range of areas and situations. When speaking to the Huffington Post, Phillips explained he wanted to capture black women of ‘all ages, shades, shapes, sizes and hair textures’ providing a fuller picture of what constitutes a black woman.

It’s extremely humbling for Harlem to see one of their own pioneering this huge project especially as he’s a male entering a very feminine debate with no qualms and only his camera to capture the truth. Phillips went on to explain how he was brought up by ‘a strong black woman’ and went onto marry another ‘strong black woman’ and so statements such as those made by Kanazawa are blatantly wrong according to his experiences and opinions.

Phillips’ book may not seem like the most influential and life changing step but it is a clear physical, photographic example of someone trying to change a negative opinion which need never have been formed.

Fundraising

As already mentioned, Phillips plans to travel the country, taking photographs and then put his book together, all in just one year. He’s looking to raise $10,000 via his Kickstarter page and we are pleased to say as of 9th March his target has been reached and his project can go ahead.

Phillips sees his project as an essential educational tool as he believes every young girl should have access to his book so they can understand the meaning of beauty in all its contexts before they’re taken away by the white idealism of Barbie and Disney princesses.

Now Phillips has his funds, we can only wait and see what he comes up with but the following video is a sample of some of the women he’d hope to include in his project and their thoughts on its production:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1657641638/beauty-in-black/widget/video.html

Research Arguing Against Kanazawa

Since the publication of Kanazawa’s essay, plenty of people have come out in protest against it. Regardless of his evolutionary points, the majority of people have been shocked if not outraged by the statements in his essay. A poll conducted in conjunction with the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation and showed that black women across America are generally more satisfied with their lives. That’s not to say they’re disputing the family or home lives of white women, just working to prove that Kanazawa’s word isn’t final.

The research poll conducted amongst a wide diverse range of women showed that black women (51%) came out on top when asked how satisfied they were with their lives, scoring higher than white women as well as both black and white men. The poll also discovered that although black women are heavier overall than others, they also have higher levels of self esteem and therefore body confidence. Now, confidence is seriously one of the most attractive traits in a woman.

In Harlem, it’s estimated that over 50% of the residents are of color and therefore you’d think that the area would come out in support of Phillips and his fantastic project. Phillips’ project has the potential to make a huge difference to the educational understanding of different body types and skin colors and should be something that America as a nation embraces.

For more information about Harlem please also see www.HarlemTrends.com.

Breaking News – NY Approves Marriage For Same Sex Couples – Happy Harlem Pride!


By HarlemGuy

A few weeks ago we reported on Harlem Pride events taking place this weekend during New York’s Gay Pride celebration.

Little did we know that there would be an additional reason to celebrate.

Tonight in a historic vote the NY State Senate has approved marriage for same sex couples, which represents a tremendous opportunity.  New York Becomes the Seventh U.S. Jurisdiction to Allow Gay and Lesbian Couples to Marry.

The energy around this has been building in the last few months, culminating in this evening’s historic achievement in civil and human rights history.

  • In recent months  dozens of New Yorkers – everyday people and celebrities alike – recorded video testimonials in support of marriage equality in New York.

  • On June 24th President Obama said “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country.”
  • And later, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the vote a “historic triumph for equality and freedom.”

“In recent weeks, I have had many conversations with our state Senators. I emphasized that not only is marriage equality consistent with bedrock American principles, but it is also consistent with bedrock Republican Party principles of liberty and freedom — and the Republicans who stood up today for those principles will long be remembered for their courage, foresight, and wisdom. In fact, 10 or 20 or 30 years from now, I believe they will look back at this vote as one of their finest, proudest moments.” 

The part I liked the most about Cuomo’s speech was his focus on the word “equality”.  No doubt this will resonate deeply with all Americans.

And as I wrap up this post I find myself humming Kool & The Gang’s CELEBRATE.

Happy Harlem Pride.