The best new restaurant in America, according to Esquire magazine, not only is in Harlem but is African-American owned. The Cecil offers cuisine that features a combination of tastes from Africa and Asia. In fact, it’s New York City’s first Afro-Asian-American brasserie. On the exciting menu you will find such tantilizing dishes as Afro/Asian/American gumbo, Feijoada, made with spicy black beans, oxtails, merguez lamb sausage. For entrees, you can dine on Cinnamon Scented Fried Guinea Hen, Roti Platter comprised of Japanese eggplant, butternut squash, jollof rice topped with pine scallion dressing or Citrus jerk wild striped bass served with African Fonio, okra, burst tomatoes, and parsnip purée, among other selections. The sides are even mouthwatering: Chili Scallion French Fried, House Made Kimchi, Okra Fries, Pineapple Fried Rice, Sweet Plantains, Coconut Grits, Seeded Long Beans.
The Cecil was opened by New York businessman Richard Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner, and Alexander Smalls, famed restaurateur and chef.
Alexander Smalls, who built his culinary reputation at such NYC restaurants as Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia’s, and The Shoebox Café, was interviewed by TNJ.com.
TNJ.com: Were you surprised by the Cecil being named best restaurant?
Alexander Smalls: Not surprised…We did the work. We knew what we were doing was special. But it was a hard-won gift that we were honored and thankful to receive.
TNJ.com: Have the changing demographics of Harlem been good for the venture?
AS: Changing demographics, more young urban professionals, “empty nesters,” more financial stability, luxury residential properties and prosperity.
TNJ.com: Why was Harlem selected initially as the site?
AS: My partners, Dick and Laura Parsons, and I made a conscious choice to be a part of the Harlem revitalization and operate an African-American business in this traditional African-American community.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for 2015?
AS: To build on what we have seeded, to shore up the operation, maximize growth, and continue to support community initiates–and to invest and train local residents in the culinary field.