Let us start by saying that this is a meal we were really looking forward to. Despite the mixed reviews, the anticipation of a meal at Red Rooster was killing us. And yet even though people seem lukewarm on the food, a reservation at Red Rooster is really hard to get. We tried for months, and kept coming up empty. Finally, we got through. And as much as we wanted The Rooster to be great, it fell short of our expectations. For a big buzz restaurant in New York City, the food here is painfully average.
Few restaurants in this city feel as alive as Red Rooster. The vibe is incredible. The bar area is mobbed, the DJ is spinning funk and soul tunes, and people appear to be having a blast. Our crew was certainly jazzed and ready for a great meal. Things seemed to be headed in the right direction when we started things off with the Harlem Chowder and cornbread for the table. But reality hit us hard when the entrees came. No one ate more than a quarter of the food on their plate. It just wasn't worth it. We found little to be excited about on the table, and there seemed to be a complete lack of refinement or technique - just various meats and fish flopped on a plate with a bunch of rice and other Southern ingredients. The service didn't help things much either. Our waiter was absent for pretty much the entire meal.
After tweeting that we were disappointed with the place, someone from the Infatuation Nation responded that Red Rooster is "one of the only places I like because the vibe rocks and the food is just okay." That's a pretty confusing statement, and yet it's kind of perfect. The atmosphere is what keeps people coming to the Rooster, even though the food kind of sucks. So it's basically like The Dutch, but with less finance dudes. Perfect. I'd make some sarcastic comment like "see you there never", but I know neither of us can get a reservation anyway.
As we previously alluded to, we started off really hot from the kitchen. We ordered this chowder for the table and really enjoyed it. It's a mix of all kinds of shellfish, octopus, shrimp, purple potatoes, corn on the cob, and lobster in a spicy tomato and mussel broth. The chowder itself was excellent. However, the execution isn't ideal. It was an extra messy battle to free the lobster from its shell, and trying to share a huge serving of chowder directly out of a large pan is a big challenge. It would have been better if they brought it by the table for a reveal, and then served us each our own bowl of goodness. That way, we could have avoided the tomato broth shower that we were all treated to trying to eat this thing.
Another winner from the front side of the menu, we enjoyed this soup, which was made with avocado, tomatoes and chicken broth. We'd order it again.
This salad is essentially a stack of lettuce soaked in a little bit too much smoked vinaigrette, and topped with bottarga. It's not a bad option if you need some greens, but it wasn't great either.
The corn bread is incredible. These hot little triangles are amazing, and the sweet honey butter that it comes with is equally mind blowing. If you find yourself at The Rooster, you better be doubling down on the corn bread.
A simply prepared piece of fish sitting atop a bed of broken rice with okra and chiles. It all sounded pretty damn tasty, and yet reality bites. This fish had zero flavor, came out of the kitchen soggy, and was pretty close to inedible. Bummer.
Honestly, the catfish was downright bad. For us, the key to an excellent catfish is a moist inside and a delicious crust. This one had neither. The charred outside didn't add any flavor, and what we wound up with was a bland, dried out "signature dish."
This is what all the fuss is about? Really? We're shocked that this fried chicken dish is the toast of the town. We couldn't figure out what the redeeming qualities were. Even without the high expectations, this is just an average fried chicken.
Another snooze. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with this dish but it was also kind of boring. It's a plate of roasted chicken wth bland cabbage and turnips. Skip it.
Of all the entrees, this was our favorite, and is one we'd actually order again. Soaked in some kind of apple and celery marinade, the pig was tender and well cooked.
The yam and sweet potato puree was so thin it was nearly impossible to eat with a fork. No thanks. The collard greens were also a disappointment, which should get your Southern restaurant license revoked immediately.