RESTAURANT REVIEW: THE CECIL HARLEM

photo by Lucy Schaeffer

I know we talk all the time about fabulous eats here on the blog and I love that we do! But lets get into some serious food... Seriously fabulous food. When you think of African, Asian and American foods, flavors, and cultures, you may begin to get dizzy. That is ALOT of things to think about, a lot of flavors, and definitely a lot of foods that don't seem to go together. That is the farthest from the truth when I dined at The Cecil recently, a new restaurant located on 118th street in Harlem. The Cecil is a Afro-Asian-American Brasserie, the 1st here in New York City and Im glad it is! New York business man Richard Parsons, and Restauranteur Alexander Smalls brings to us the fabulous eater, not only this new and highly anticipated restaurant BUT they have opened diners eyes to the travel and exploration of crossing cultures. 


When I dined at The Cecil, I noticed the crowd having a great time before I even stepped foot inside, just glancing in through the floor to ceiling windows. The mixture of prints, textures, lightening and large pieces of bright art work cover the entire restaurant, and the bar housed some handsome bartenders. The cocktail menu is eclectic in it self, with drinks such as a West African peanut punch, Kaffir daiquiris and also a large selections of wines, some of them with roots from Africa. 


Harlem, The Cecil, Chef JJ, eating fabulously, restaurant review, prawns, Piri Piri,
photo via The Cecil Facebook pg. 
I cant hold it anymore, lets get to the food.. this delicious food! Here is what we dined on! 

Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid - okra x sweet chili ginger sauce 


West African Beef Suya - rum soaked apricot compote x grilled plantain x ground nuts 



Cinnamon Scented Fried Guinea Hen - charred okra x Asian red beans x roasted sweet potato 



Skillet Fried Salmon - sweet plantains x house-made kimichi 



Desserts: Sticky Bun and the Mulva cake 


The menu, by Chef Smalls and chef de cuisine Joseph "JJ" Johnson highlights exactly how you can combine 3 different cultures together and also make them interestingly familiar. This menu has a lot of flavor but its not over whelming. Each dish, each component, each garnish, is carefully constructed and you see and taste all of what these chefs have dedicated to this menu. For appetizers, the West African Beef Suya and the spicy crispy squid graced our table. I personally love grilled smokey flavors and a sweet component together,and thats what the beef suya presented. Deep grilled smokey flavor of thinly sliced beef and plantains with the sweet apricot compote. The squid was crispy and fresh, but the okra that accompanied the squid stole my heart, ESPECIALLY since I do not like okra. Somehow Chef JJ, turned something I don't like into this crispy tempura style deliciousness and I ate all of it! Fabulous eaters, please make sure to get a side of the crispy okra fries. 


The Cecil, Harlem, restaurant review, eating fabulously, Chef JJ
skillet fried salmon via The Cecil FB pg. 

Entrees arrived next and the Cinnamon scented Fried Guinea Hen was what I had my eye on. Not only had I never had guinea hen before, but I totally needed to know how cinnamon tasted on fried chicken if you will. It was fantastic actually! The fried guinea hen was hot and crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The cinnamon hit you as soon as you bit into the chicken, but it quickly settled down.The more you ate, the more you enjoyed the cinnamon.  The star of our table that evening (aside from that damn okra!) was the skillet fried salmon. FRIED SALMON fabulous eaters! With house made kimchi9 with black eyes peas)  and sweet plantains, the salmon was moist and perfectly cooked on the inside and the subtle cornmeal crust on the outside provided crunch.  To close out our evening, I ordered sticky buns for dessert, because who am I fooling, I LOVE sticky buns, and I love The Cecil's sticky buns. With brulee bananas and a deeply gingered ice cream on the side, like the skillet salmon, the sticky buns quickly disappeared from our table. 

In all, I had a fantastic experience at The Cecil and I cant wait to go back.... again and again. With the addition of The Cecil's sister restaurant, Minton's opening in October with chef de cuisine Banks White in the kitchen, I absolutely love the fact that these young talented black men are bringing properly cooked, well thought out, amazing food not just to Harlem, but to everyone lucky enough to dine at both restaurants. 


The Cecil, Harlem, restaurant review, Chef JJ, eating fabulously, Guinea Hen,
Cinnamon scented guinea hen via The Cecil's FB pg


The Cecil 
210 West 118th street 
New York, N.Y. 10026
212.866.1262 
www.thececilharlem.com 
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