Long Weekend @ HARLEM

Harlem
(416) 368-1920
67 Richmond St E
Toronto, ON
www.harlemrestaurant.com

Harlem on Urbanspoon

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I had passed this restaurant a couple of times while walking around downtown Toronto; and even from the outside, it oozed of coolness. I went home and immediately put it on my “wishlist” on Urbanspoon. Yeah, I’m nerdy like that.

Valentine’s day arrived and my boyfriend asked me where I would want to have dinner. It was one of the few times I didn’t say, “where ever you want to go!” So we called and made a reservation. He was interested to know what other people thought about Harlem before we went for dinner, so we read some reviews. There was a unanimous declaration the place served up some good tasting soul food and that it was also a bit cramped. We figured we’d judge that ourselves.

We arrived there for dinner and saw that yes, it was a bit cozy on the inside, but it would only feel uncomfortable or annoying if it was bursting at capacity – but thankfully, it wasn’t (this place also has 2 floors). I looked at the menu but before I could even read what was on it, I was taken away by this sweet music streaming from upstairs and through the stereo system. We later found out it was this dude Jevon Rudder. Awesome voice. Here’s short clip of him playing She Will Be Loved by Maroon 5:

Back to food. I LUUURRRVVVEEE fried chicken and at a place like Harlem where they specialize in soul food, I couldn’t help but order some Southern Fried Chicken! My boyfriend and I also shared a Jerk Chicken Quesadilla and he went for the Valentine’s day special – salad, braised short ribs, chocolate cake. The waiter brought over some corn bread – which I LOVE as well.

The Corn Bread

The corn bread was quite tasty. It had some hot peppers in it but all in all, your regular run-of-the-mill corn bread.

The Jerk Chicken Quesadilla

Next we had the Jerk Chicken Quesadilla. THIS was a really interesting dish. It was a marriage of both sweet and spicy. The jerk chicken filling was like “pulled chicken”, it had some jerk spice in it and I believe some sort of mayo and of course, cheese…it kinda tasted like a goats cheese – but I’m not sure. It also had a sweet syrup on it. On the menu it says a “honey chipotle” sauce and it indeed tasted smokey, but more maple syrup than chipotle. In short, my boyfriend thought this was the best part of our meal. I really liked this dish, however, I wish it was a little more jerk/spicy. I was expecting a much stronger Caribbean flavour than I got.

The Salad

My boyfriend had a salad with his meal. I know what everyone is thinking, “it’s just salad, is it worth talking about?” Well I think it is! Only because there are some places that serve up salads with slightly wilted and gross field greens and/or they over dress their salads. Harlem did a pretty good job!! I was NOT disgusted by their salad. It was fresh, the leaves weren’t wilted, the dressing was light and tasty and most importantly, dressed at the right amount. All of their greens were like this – excellent!

The Southern Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is definitely a food which I love, yet try not to eat so much of it because it’s soo bad for you – BUT IT’S SOOO GOOD!!! Anyway, this was an AMAZING fried chicken! It was super crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It had a slight drizzling of a sweet honey-like sauce on the outside – but not too much, which was good! It was definitely one of the best fried chickens I’ve ever had. Of course, the BEST fried chicken I’ve ever had was in Vancouver (Woo Fung Dessert in Richmond, BC – Trust me. THE BEST!). I will definitely be back @ Harlem for the Southern Fried Chicken!

The Braised Short Ribs

I love short ribs and this was super delicious. I’m salivating just thinking about it! It was fall off the bone, melt in your mouth kind of short rib. I could’ve eaten 4 plates of this stuff, but I didn’t. This was my boyfriends entree, so I only got to have 2 u____u Now I’m not a big fan of spicy. I don’t like hot spicy food, but I felt like this needed to be more spicy. Perhaps I’m just being a bit picky and these short ribs weren’t even supposed to be spicy, but I wish they were…

The Music

Freaking. Amazing. My boyfriend and I actually went to Harlem two nights in a row. After our dinner we went upstairs to listen to the rest of Jevon’s set before the DJ took over. Now I’ve already raved about how good Jevon was, but the DJ, DJ Carl Allen, was also REALLY GOOD! We definitely enjoyed the tunes that night. The next night, which was a Monday night, we attended an open jam session. And we wouldn’t have gone ourselves if it wasn’t for my boyfriends brother, who happened to tell us he was going to be playing a jam @ Harlem. Anyway, the jam is hosted by Carolyn T and this bass guy – Bubbha.

It was AMAZING! The talent in that room was phenomenal! They had drummers, singers, a pianist, trumpet, tenor sax, vocalists, bass, guitarists…I mean it was an open jam, so anything was game! They played an awesome selection of good funk, R&B, jazz, soul music. At one time Bubbha, the bass player, played along with the band a song he wrote for Sly and the Family Stone. Come on!!! That’s super cool! [OK, my boyfriend said that might not be true…something about joking around and something about Michael Jackson]

One of my most favourite moments from that night was when a trumpet player and tenor sax did a rendition of “Autumn in New York” – LOVE that song and also I play the trumpet, so it was especially cool for me :)

I strongly recommend checking this place out! Come for the food and stay for the music.

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