SPOILER ALERT: I will be gushing about great food and a great time with friends. Gerd your loins…
There is a little sliver of a place on East 110th street in Harlem that you MUST try. Its diminutive size says nothing about its big yet subtle flavors. It is called Mountain Bird and it is my new favorite restaurant in Harlem.
My first experience with Mountain Bird was a happenstance encounter at their original location on 145th street in 2013. While sauntering around my old neighborhood on a production break, I stumbled upon their lace French curtained window. Inside I would find a salon-like bistro and a case filled with pastries.
For all my fellow banana chocolate lovers, this is the penultimate experience!
I ordered a coffee and thee most delicious, light, not too sweet banana split cake (please bring this back…puhleeeeeze!) while looking over their dinner menu. Captured, a tear came to my eye (seriously) for how amazingly good this morsel was. I promised owner Keiko Tajima I would return…
Three years later, and in a new location…
…I finally got to dine at the beak-to-talon poultry restaurant and eat what chef Kenichi Tajima is cooking. With a couple of friends in tow we arrived to the small eatery ready for the magic.
Elder Fashioned cocktail
Of course we started with cocktails and wine. I couldn’t decide from their short list but (since it was Kentucky Derby Saturday) settled on the Elder Fashioned ($13) bourbon cocktail with elderflower syrup bitters and orange twist. The friends had glasses from their wine list while we attacked the menu. Here we go…
Bite Sized Head to Toe Sampler
The team at Mountain Bird started me with their bite size head to toe sampler ($11) of cockscomb cutlet with grain mustard, liver mousse and cranberry nut bonbon, chicken heart puff pastry and wing lollipop with balsamic truffle glaze (more on these). This is the perfect premonition for the ensuing meal.
I was then moved on to shrimp mac and cheese ($16) of whole grain elbow pasta bathed in both lobster bisque and shrimp vanilla cream sauce. Like no mac and cheese you have ever had! A tempered hand goes very far here.
The dining crew added a fresh hot pumpernickel baguette with vanilla butter and liver mousse ($9); a full order of those black truffle wings ($12) sitting on a “nest” of celery with parmesan cream; roasted baby beet salad ($15) with goat cheese, pickled shallots, beet chips, beet coulis and orange dressing; quinoa salad ($13) with sundried tomato, olive, cashew nuts, cucumber over a bed of kale with their crazy good house dressing (Keiko tells me it is a puree of vegetables…obvi with some other yummy business too).
smoked herring salad
If we stopped at this point we would have been perfectly sated, but thank goodness that we didn’t. Two of the crew let the hors d’oeuvres section roll into the main part of our meal with smoked herring salad ($16) with unctuous pieces of herring, frisee, poached egg, potato and honey mustard dressing…
bird goodie plate
…and the “bird goodie plate” ($17) with poultry pate, sliced duck breast, gizzard confit and red wine cassis sauce. The joy just wasn’t stopping…
Chef Tajima at the hearth tending to a chicken breast.
True to form I could not decided between two entrees. Should I go by my own SCHOP! Tip (Trying a new restaurant? Opt for the most basic dishes first before moving on to others.)for the basic roasted chicken breast ($26) with mashed potatoes, vegetables and madeira chasseur sauce? Thank goodness one of my crew did. Leave it to Chef Tajima to put his TLC on the humble and maligned chicken breast to make it succulent and craveable.
This left me open to Keiko’s wise suggestion for Moulard duck duo ($32)…we are talking per-fect-ly roasted rare breast and gorgeous crispy leg confit (cooked in its own fat) served with cherry brandy sauce (chef’s sauce game is on point!) and the most cared for vegetable medley EVER plus the greenest freshest creamed spinach I’ve had (next to yours, Chef Boulud).
This gets a baaaaaaaabeeeeeee and a whaaaaaathefuhhhh?!
My o good I had to show you my plate as it quickly disappeared
Truly an amazing plate of food that I must have again.
And for dessert…no banana split cake unfortunately (again, pretty please…) but the four we did get were absolutely destroyed…DESTROYED!
Sticky toffee pudding lounging in buttery caramelly (not a word, but an essential descriptor) with fresh whipped cream quenelle and crunchy chocolate candies…beat…the Mountain Bird affogato gilds the hot-espresso-over-cold-vanilla-bean-ice-cream lily with a small bottle of Kraken Black Spiced Rum (yes, we DID release the Kraken!)…beat…the dessert special of strawberry ice cream with banana cake (tasted more like cornbread), berries and whipped cream …beat…a petite apple tarte tatin with melty vanilla bean ice cream seeping into the caramelized nooks and crannies. Does any of this sound wrong? I think not!
And there it is, my first full meal at Mountain Bird. I can’t wait for my next visit for date night, girls night out, family dinner or because it’s Tuesday or Thursday, TGIF, Saturday night special, what about Sunday brunch, because I am happy, because I woke up like this…
The crew: (clockwise) Jason, me, Katrina, Angie
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