Diamond in the rough
Special to AmNews | , Kysha Harris | 10/12/2012, 4:29 p.m.
Early last month, after returning from my Italy trip, I got an opportunity to eat at one of Harlem's newest restaurants. It was one of my monthly-cum-"whenever-we-are-all-in-town" dinners with my high school girlfriends. Though down one of the five, we made it happen. I was still on an Italy food-high, so I wasn't expecting much. One of our lot made the suggestion to stay uptown and go to 5 & Diamond (2072 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, 646.684.4662). Perfect! I could kill three birds with one stone: see friends, stay uptown and finally try out this restaurant.
I already heard good things from other friends who had eaten at 5 & Diamond, though mostly about the dessert and the physical space. I also heard about the temperamental chef and the fight that ensued during its opening. I just hoped the food had as much moxie.
We all arrived on time, if not earlier, and waited at the bar. When it was time to be seated at the only available table for four, in the middle of the petite dining space, the host said our table wasn't ready yet. We looked at each other in bewilderment then, again, at the table and finished the thought with eight raised eyebrows.
Finally seated, I got a chance to peruse the menu. Sparse, though thoughtfully presented.
We started with two appetizers to share: Gruyere and Mimolette mac & cheese and grilled Portuguese sepia. Don't worry about it; I had to ask my friend what sepia, was too. It's squid.
The sepia was served with sherry shallots and olives over a piquillo pepper puree. I do love grilled squid and octopus. It was respectable--good flavors, nice use of acid and salt from the olives, simple presentation.
The mac & cheese didn't really excite anyone at the table once we got beyond the slightly crusty top. I have never tried Mimolette cheese in its natural state before, but I don't think it added anything to this dish.
For my entree, I had the striped bass with red quinoa, edamame, preserved lime and mint. Also making an appearance was the pork loin with white asparagus, ramps and pickled blueberries, and the cheeseburger and fries.
I enjoyed my fish. It was cooked well and beautifully presented (and it should be at $26), though I really ordered it for what it was on--the quinoa and edamame. The two reminded me of a dish I am trying to perfect, red quinoa risotto.
Everyone else enjoyed her food. The burger was moist and cooked to her liking, the pork loin was not overcooked, and the pickled blueberries were unique. However, I don't recall any gushing...
Ah yes, there was gushing...over our dessert. Of course, we had to have the donuts and, to take the pressure off, a fruit crisp. The hot, freshly made, sugary, slightly greasy donuts were a great way to end the meal. The fruit crisp held its own, too.
Prices are debatable. At $60 per person for two appetizers, four entrees, two desserts, 1 bottle of wine plus tax and tip, I will let you make your decision about 5 & Diamond.
It was a great night with friends in my neighborhood. I couldn't have said that nor had this food in Harlem five years ago, so I am celebrating that milestone.
I see they also have a $20 pre fixe and are serving brunch; Portuguese (obrigada!) brunch on Saturdays with $10 unlimited sangria. That could be fun! Think I might give them another shot.
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! SCHOP! is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? E-mail kysha@iSCHOP.com.