Harlem’s now famous Restaurant Row started with The 5 & Diamond. Before their arrival on FDB and W112th St Uptown had a few nice restaurants with intimate seating, outstanding entrees, well poured drinks, and attentive waitstaff, but 5&D (as we affectionately call it), was the pioneer that put FDB on the Harlem Food Renaissance map. A bold statement, perhaps–but when I lived a block from FDB (on ACP and W 111th St) back in 2004, finding a good dinner spot within walking distance proved to be as difficult as getting Mitt Romney to release the rest of his tax returns. East of Columbus/Morningside was a culinary no-man’s land—so we ate a lot of rice and beans that last semester of college, and trekked over to Broadway and put our spending change to good use on beers at (the now defunct) West End and the Heights.
It takes balls, brains, and lot of faith to be the virgin restaurateurs that set up shop in a neighborhood that is the culinary equivalent of the Mojave Desert and start charging $18+ per entree. Impress by the cojones, the menu, and the blog chatter they were stirring up, we got to 5&D as soon as we could (when edamame was the bean of choice in the parpadelle), and have been going back ever since. Always greeted by John, one of the warmest and most welcoming mater’ds in Harlem, 5&D feels as good as home (…if my home had elegant but simple décor, exposed brick, dramatic fresh flower arrangements, and a full bar).
Dish by Dish
Heirloom Tomato Salad–A harsh tomato judge from birth, my tomato expectations were especially high because of my aforementioned let downs with tomatoes at Uptown restaurants. I order the heirloom tomato salad with a bit of trepidation…but I wanted a truly seasonal vegetable to start our meal, and I could not have been happier with the stack of tomato slices that were delivered to us. The tomatoes were fresh, juicy, and flavorful, with a robust sweetness that complemented their sturdy, yet succulent texture and springy skin. Garnished with a tiny arugula salad, parsley, dill, a fresh mozzarella ‘sauce’, and crunchy quinoa, this starter salad was promptly gobbled up. This was true #vegetableenvy. My only negative on the salad were the crunchy quinoa garnish—though I know where they were going with it, because it was more hard than crunchy, it just ended up being a little difficult to chew.
House Made Parpadelle—I have had a number of entrees at 5&D—but hands down, my favorite dish is the Parpadelle. My love affair with the Parpadelle started on our first visit–my brother had recently made me braised short ribs in an amazing tomato and red wine sauce, so as soon as I saw short ribs, I craved my brother’s cooking and thought I would be underwhelmed when these rustic house made pasta ribbons were placed in front of me. I was wrong–the tender meat drenched in perfectly seasoned tomato sauce clinging to al dente noodles gave Del’s short ribs a run for their money—and two years (and multiple bean trials) later, it’s still hard to get my eyes to read any further down on the menu.
The 12oz Aged Burger with Manchego—Keith is a Burger Man. Even if he ate them every day for a week, given the choice between a burger or anything else, he’ll choose the burger every time. His most favorite comfort food, he has eaten a lot of burgers, and knows when he’s found one worth remembering. 5&D’s burger is like that. Perfectly cooked to a tad past medium, smothered in tangy melted manchego cheese, topped with sweet and sour tomatoes, soft onion rings, and arugula, all on a charred bun and served with a steak knife stuck through the middle, it’s the restaurant’s silent permission slip to get a little messy while you feast on this beast of a burger. The piled high fries, because they come from a freezer bag, are unremarkable. If only the chef would introduce some fresh potatoes to that deep fryer and this would be one of the best burgers served north of 110th St.
Braised Kale with Marcona Almonds—they have made a brilliant pairing of the greens with a toasted crunchy accent. The beauty of salty marcona almonds with tender but substantial greens is a great side for any of the menu items.