There was someone great who once said, “The only guarantee in life is change.” And change can be great. You know, take a new way home, add a new spice to a dish you can make with your eyes closed or take a trip to somewhere you have never been. Yes, change can be bad too, but guess what? That can change.
A few weeks back, Harlem food bloggers and writers were invited to Chocolat (@chocolatharlem, 2217-23 Frederick Douglas Blvd., 212-222-4545, www.chocolatharlem.com) to meet their new chef and to taste some of his creations. I had not been to Chocolat to eat in some time, so perhaps this tasting would inspire a change.
Our long table of foodies sat and introduced ourselves to each other. Harlem restaurateur and Chocolat owner Leon Ellis introduced himself and the new executive chef, Joseph Guittierez. I perused the lengthy “tasting menu” before us while sipping on a delicious basil cocktail. What we didn’t know was that “tasting” meant full-on meals. So let me pull out the camera and get to it. My notes and ratings (out of !!!!!):
Blackened Mahi Mahi Satay with Mango Relish
The fish is not blackened, which would have added a little more flavor to the dish. However, it’s a nice, light, summery, straightforward starter.
Shrimp and Watermelon Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil and Lemon Vinaigrette
There is a texture mismatch here between the watermelon and the shrimp. Also, the choice of cheese doesn’t lend the needed salt.
Chocolat’s Famous Sesame Calamari Salad over Asian Greens with Miso Ginger Dressing
I like where this is going, but found it overdressed with sauces and the fried calamari under seasoned.
Short Rib Empanada with Pico de Gallo:
Sazon meat filling is satisfying, though the choice of flakey dough for the casing is too far of a departure from the traditional. More flavor needed in the pico de gallo too.
Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas and Sweet Plantains
Great jerk spice, but the finished product was too dry. The plate is screaming for a sauce, while the sweet plantain never fails.
Southern Crispy Yard Bird with Corn on the Cob, Watermelon Salad and Honey Cayenne Sauce
In order, the stars of this dish are the sauce then the chicken, which was seasoned, moist and fried well. Ask for extra sauce, which works well and is needed on the undressed slices of watermelon. Sides need rethinking.
Grilled Scottish Salmon Filet with Sautéed Kale, Crispy Leeks and Mango Coulis
I am not a person who orders salmon at restaurants for fear of it being overcooked. This is cooked perfectly. I love the sautéed kale instead of the expected spinach; crispy shallots add needed texture, and the mango coulis is the perfect seasonal sauce for the dish. A true winner!
Jamaican Black Cake á la Mode
This brought back memories of making fruitcake with my stepfather. It is rich, moist and doused in five types of rum. The table really enjoyed it. A great share dessert with a flight of rums.
Pastellas with Guava and Queso
This was the right use of the empanada dough—around sweet and tangy guava jelly with salty and savory queso, deep fried and topped with powdered sugar! Heaven! The table was jockeying who was going to take the leftovers home. (I got two!)
Overall, it was a satisfying experience at Chocolat. While the appetizers need reworking and the entrees a little retweeking, the desserts “boom-bipped” me in the mouth. Thank you to Chocolat for a fun time and to my fellow bloggers and writers for their shared food-loving spirit. Great to meet you in person!
Change is good!
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.