RICHARD PARSONS’ THE CECIL NAMED 2014 BEST RESTAURANT IN AMERICA BY ESQUIRE MAGAZINE
First Time a Harlem, NY Restaurant Awarded This Title
On Tuesday evening Esquire Magazine will unveil the winners of their first annual American Food & Drink Awards at The Cecil in Harlem, NY.
THE CECIL will be named the 2014 Best New Restaurant in America.
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 its goal is to connect communities through food, comfort and hospitality. Afro / Asian / American cuisine is a fusion of the best of what each of those distinct food cultures has to offer.
It traces the global migration of African-descendant people through the influence of African spices, textures and cooking techniques on traditional American, Latin and Asian dishes.
Guided by this concept, Executive Chef Smalls and Chef de CuisineJoseph “JJ” Johnson have conspired to create unique plates that combine the familiar with the unexpected.
We recently visited The Park 112 for dinner on a Wednesday night in December. The Park is conveniently located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 112th Street (Harlem Restaurant Row) sandwiched in-beween 67 Orange and the 5 and Diamond Restaurants. Great atmosphere. Its large open multi optional space provides many different seating options. The attractive long raised center communal table sets the mood for potential large get togethers or a table for two sitting across from one another. There are two additional raised tables separate from the communal table near the back. Along the south wall comfortable leather banquettes run the full length of the place with 2 and 4 top seating. The opposite (north) wall is a long attractive bar scene that was festive and full of life when we arrived. We will definitely be back for drinks in the near future.
We arrived early and there were only a few tables but by 9 pm the restaurant was comfortably full. They have a great section in the way back that would be an ideal VIP area or place for a private party with high grand tufted leather banquettes (see photos of interior below).
The speciality cocktails are delicious. I recommend The Park 112 – sparkling wine, pavan orange blossom liqueur, crop meyer lemon vodka & pomegranate in a champagne flute glass. Also The Frederick Douglass – bullet bourbon, chili passion fruit puree, rimmed with chili sugar. WARNING it is hot! I enjoyed the extra heat but another person in my group found it too hot. They also have a Self-Serve Wine Machine. A unique exploration of respectable wines through self-service enomatic machines. This allows the patron to enjoy tastes, half glasses and full pours of a continually rotating list of favorite vintages. Definitely a unique concept and cool addition for Harlem restaurant row.
We spoke extensively with owner Lewis Tucker and chef Kingsley John who were both enthusiastic and accommodating with information about the Park 112 finally opening. Lewis Tucker who has lived in Harlem, Westchester and the Bronx for years, was the president of Sean Combs Enterprises and he ran Bad Boy Records. Tucker’s list of credentials are too long to list and include being a co-founder of Essential Sports. No stranger to the scene, he explained he wanted to bring a downtown vibe uptown and literally picked this location and designed it with this purpose in mind. In addition to the large interior space, there will be an outdoor private patio in the back once the nice weather rolls around in late Spring. We saw the raw fenced in space and were surprised by how large it was. This has the potential to be very trendy for the summer months ahead and unique to this area. We have a lot of sidewalk seating now in the neighborhood for the summer months – Harlem Food Bar, Vinateria, Harlem Tavern, Harlem Shake, The Corner Social, Jado Sushi, etc., but no private outdoor patio options with the excepotion of Ricardos in East Harlem and one or two other spots.
The menu is multifaceted. Globally inspired small and large plates I would describe as American /Global Fusion/Caribbean with several options for every budget. We ordered before we met chef Kingsley John and after speaking with him we were all left wanting to come back to try recommendations that we hadn’t ordered. Chef John, a native of the West Indies, has worked in the kitchen under Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit and is passionate about the small and large plates he has created. I’m not a big soup fan but was encouraged to try the carrot ginger soup. It was so good. We also enjoyed the duck lettuce wraps, lobster spring rolls, teriyaki lollipops and crispy prawns. Next time I’d like to try the smoked sea scallops and fried oysters which looked tasty at the table next to ours. The butterflied branzino with head on (large plate) was delicious! Priced at $28 but worth the coin. We also had the spiced crusted rack of lamb and the park 112 steak frittes rib eye. The fries with the steak were decoratively sculptured side by side forming a sort of circular cup-like design. A+ for presentation. There is something for everyone here on the menu. After speaking with Kingsley, we discussed our next visit and how we’d like to focus exclusively on all the Caribbean dishes.
Great desserts. I could have one of their chocolate mousses (pictured below) every day. We sampled several desserts together including the lava cake but I ultimatley stopped sharing the mousse and claimed it as mine. I need it again soon. They are now also open for Sunday Brunch. Visit their menu for all small plates, large plates and brunch items. Another great addition to the neighborhood. Stop in and check out the Park 112 for yourself.
I’m so excited that we now have an Insomnia Cookies store in Harlem. I’ve been to their location on the Upper Westside and they are great! They are located on 110th and Amsterdam.
My favorite are the double chocolate chip but they have a large variety of delicious cookies including peanut butter, white chocolate macadamia nut, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip chunk and sugar to name a few. They are open late and deliver so check them out!
1028 Amsterdam Ave
(between Cathedral Pky & 111th St)
New York, NY 10025
We first blogged a month ago about a new Indian restaurant coming to FDB in Harlem. The owner reached out to us yesterday and it appears they will be opening as soon as the week of May 29th. Next week! Exact day yet to be determined depending on the completion of their construction, but they are hoping for Wednesday.
Maharaja Palacealso located on the East Side on Madison Avenue, will offer a large selection of classic Indian dishes. For all of you vegetarians out there they also offer a large selection of vegetarian dishes. Reasonably priced for the standards with the priciest items on the menu their Tandori specialties which is normally the case with Indian restaurants. Here is a peek at their Tandori Specialties
They are located in the old Questans space on Frederick Douglass Boulevard (westside of the ave.) between 114th and 115th Streets. With Jado Sushi across the street, Melbas on the adjacent corner, Frederick Bistro Cafe, Harlem Food Bar and Bier International less than a block away, Maharaja Palace will now add a much needed Indian restaurant into the mix. Stay tuned for more information, photos and our new menu review from HarlemCondoLife.com next week after their grand opening.
NOTE: They will start their home delivery service the day of opening, scheduled for May 29th.
2113 Frederick Douglass Blvd.
New York, Ny 10026