Do you want to experience one of the best Harlem evenings possible right now? Go spend a night at The Cecil. The Cecil is always buzzing with action, finding that happy balance between party time at dinner time, and delicious food.
The Cecil is the restaurant element of a big restoration project that also included bringing back the legendary Minton's Jazz Club next door. Back when it was known as Minton's Playhouse, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald. and Billie Holiday all performed there. So, yeah, you could say this is a place of cultural relevance. And speaking of relevant, The Cecil has become even more than that - it's become the most essential new Harlem restaurant. The Cecil is a beautiful room, and it's the kind of restaurant where you step inside and immediately know: good things happen here.
The menu is quite large, and describes itself as African/Asian/American fusion, and while there's certainly a lot going on here, the food is all delicious.
Oxtail dumplings? Yes please. Braised Goat Udon Noodles? You know it. Mac & Cheese Casserole? You get the picture. Come with an appetite, and, preferably, a big group so you can share a bunch of different things. Usually a gigantic menu is a bad thing.
Not at The Cecil.
On top of the unique, inventive, and super creative cuisine, the drinks and the service stand out as well. It's really a top notch restaurant experience. When we think about restaurants, we always ask ourselves one very important question: Would we ever come back? Well, we can't wait to return to The Cecil.
A warm bowl of steamed dumpling action with all kinds of dueling flavors. You want these.
Prawns are one of The Cecil's strengths. Eat a lot of them. This app is a great way to start. Jumbo shrimp are served on top of a yam pancake with a spicy African chili sauce known as piri piri sauce.
Get your suya on. Kebabs of beef sandwiched in between grilled plantains with nuts and some sticky apricot compote. Delicious.
It isn't often you find restaurants serving gumbo in NYC, and even more rare when it's a gumbo worth ordering. The Cecil is the exception. Their gumbo is excellent. All kinds of smoke and a little bit of fire. The warm bowl of beautiful brown mush is filled with smoked chicken, Chinese chicken sausage, shrimp, crab meat... Yeah, it's a party.
Next level mac & cheese. A warm cheesy stew of noodles with pepper ham, caramelized shallots, and rosemary. Get involved.
Not your typical bowl of Japanese noodles. These udon noodles come in more of a pasta form, and are piled high with meat, peanut sauce and edamame. One of the best dishes on the menu.
There's an entire "Wok Bar" section of the menu that gives you the power to create a rice or vegetable-based wok dish with choice of protein and sauce, Midtown lunch style. We've had a bunch, and they're all OK, but there are too many other hits at The Cecil to get bogged down here. Our favorite concoction though: Coconut brown rice with wok prawns and black pepper sauce.
Harlem is home to a lot of fried chicken, but this may very well be the best. Guinea Hen is a darker, gamier version of chicken, and it seems to cling to flavor a little better. It's crispy, it's moist, it's dense - this fried chicken is damn flawless. We're just bummed we forgot to shoot photos of it to show you. Order it.
A serious serving of sweet, savory meat, served with coconut grits, heirloom carrots, and purple sweet potatoes. Money in the bank.
One of our favorite entrees on the menu. The citrus jerk sauce is bananas, and brings a ton of island-style fun to a stellar fish dish. We've ordered this every time we've been here and it's always excellent.