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Amazing nite at Harlem

f
fluffythemonkey Aug 24, 2011 09:56 AM

Hi everyone.

I had an amazing experience at Harlem last weekend an djust wante dto share my input on this great restaurant which I think doesnt get enough praise on CH.

We went on a saturday, had reservations for a party of 4, upstairs where the live music was going to play. We arrived about half an hour early and they seated us gladly. Our waitress was super energetic and friendly. So helpful. She had tons of 'harlem' spunk. She answered all our questions and gave us tons of recommendations.

Me and the bf ordered two cocktails... both were fantastic. I especially liked mine which i believe was called the harlem sling? Delicious!

We ordered the corn bread and seafood fondue for appetizers. My boyfriend really enjoyed the cornbread.. i thought it could have been warmer... but it was still enjoyable and tasted like...well, cornbread! The seafood fondue was on the other hand a glorious think and chunk-style dip. Dont think about creamy and liquidy. Definately big chunks of shrimp and crab in there. It was served with a good portion of 'Harlem Crisps" which looked to me like deep fried wontons (which ive made before) This was a winne! everyone was scarpign to get the last of the fondue.

For our mains I ordered the Southern Stle Fried Chicken with collard greens and a side of mac and cheese. My boyfriend had the fried chicken with waffles. Our friends had the shrot ribs and jerk chicken. BY FAR the chicken was the best. Ive tried lots of fried chicken (missioning out to stockyards next week to compare) but this was amazing PERFECT! Crispy Crispy skin, thick but really well seasoned batter. People have said they foudn the chicken underseasoned...well i definately didnt and I love seasoning. I tried a bit of everything... personalyl lvoed my dish the best... my boyfriend 9with the waffled was also good an dit looked like his chicken had a bit more sauce ontop to coat with the waffled. Very delicious! Like a maple-sweet/spicy sauce.

Ive heard some people dont like the sauce on the chicken. We loved it. My Mac and cheese -- well ti was mac and cheese. It was delicious but not blow your mind amazing. Ity went well with my dish.

I tried the short ribs and they were tender and extra meaty. Didnt try the rice that came with it. Not bad! The jerk chicken was very very saucey but i felt thta it had th esame bbq sauce as the short ribs... so i didnt taste too much jerk from it. Our dinign companions loved their meal however. No complaints.

We were all left STUFFED half way through our mains and took breaks to enjoy a round of beers (5.75 for coronos' stella's, heinekens, notbad!) and then continued hammerign away at our plates. We were sooo full - Harlem definately is very generous with their portions. If you dont want to be overly stuffed - dont order apps.

We couldn teven fit dessert as tempting as it sounded.
Dinner for 4 (with two cocktails and 6 beers) after taxes and tip came to 180.00 (90 per couple) not bad - we were also very generous with the tip.

I cannot recommend this restaurant enough and the singe ron stage was equally awesome! great ambiance for a nice relaxed date!

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Harlem
67 Richmond St E, Toronto, ON M5C1N9, CA

  1. kwass Aug 24, 2011 10:48 AM

    Have you been to the Queen St location as well, and if so, how does it compare?

    2 Replies
    1. re: kwass
      f
      fluffythemonkey Aug 24, 2011 10:56 AM

      I havnt been but from what ppl have told me... the richmond street location is better (service and food quality)

      1. re: kwass
        f
        farmgirl1836 Aug 24, 2011 11:27 AM

        My husband and I went to the Queen Street location for a Sunday brunch and we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious the food was and how beautiful the presentation of the plates was. I had french toast with delicious syrup with stewed prunes in it, like a compote, and also with strawberries, blackberries and blueberries and either pecans or walnuts. The portion was overly generous (7 or 8 large half slices of challah french toast) and sprinkled with icing sugar. It was yummy. I took half home for my mother-in-law. My husband had blueberry pancakes and we shared a side order of sausages. As well as the food being delicious, the music made the breakfast even more special. Our waitress wasn't overly attentive, but we didn't really need her attention. We really enjoyed it and would go back for a dinner.

      2. g
        glickjor Aug 24, 2011 12:12 PM

        What is the live must like? I am looking for a place Friday night but it says that there is a jazz trio that plays Friday nights from 8 onwards. Do you know if the jazz is supposed to be background music for diners or will it interfere with the conversation at dinner?

        1 Reply
        1. re: glickjor
          f
          fluffythemonkey Aug 24, 2011 01:51 PM

          Last time we went we had 1 artist... it looks like they change it up often (see their events calendar) we sat very close to the stage which made it difficult for table conversation at times...so if u want to still talk a bit and laugh... i would ask to sit a bit towards the back.

          but the music really was lovely...the artist was had did some covers and some of her original stuff...jazz...with an r&b vibe!

        2. d
          dgnr8 Oct 12, 2011 08:33 AM

          Has anyone found that the food can be hit or miss? I love Harlem, but I have been there a few times and had dry, poorly put together food. I think there is one main chef who is incredible, but when he is away it feels like the meal falls apart.

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          Harlem
          67 Richmond St E, Toronto, ON M5C1N9, CA

          3 Replies
          1. re: dgnr8
            l
            LTL Oct 12, 2011 10:06 AM

            Absolutely! I once tried the meatloaf which was tasty, moist and delicious. A few visits later, I recommended this to my friend who was sorely disappointed at the grey slab of dry flavourless meat on his plate. This is just one instance of this type of thing happening. When they're good, they're great but otherwise it can be very disappointing.

            1. re: dgnr8
              j
              julesrules Oct 15, 2011 05:31 AM

              It's been consistently underwhelming for me lately. If I want pancake mix and fake maple syrup (the chicken and waffles) I can get that at McD's. Makes me sad because I want to love this place but can't anymore.

              1. re: julesrules
                y
                ylsf Oct 15, 2011 07:13 AM

                Arg, I have been wanting to try this place for a while but now I might just cross it off my list. Has the "Harlem Underground' their Queen Street location gone downhill too?

            2. dannyboy Oct 15, 2011 09:02 AM

              I go for lunch once a week as i work around the corner and i really like the place. Their fried chicken is excellent, salads fresh, and mac & cheese with bacon very good as well.
              The gals that serve are cool and laid back which adds to an already chill kinda vibe.
              I think it's great, I wouldn't be put off with bad reviews maybe they're just a little hit and miss.

              1 Reply
              1. re: dannyboy
                j
                julesrules Oct 15, 2011 09:47 AM

                If I went that often and at lunch (lower investment of time, money and expectations) I think I could figure out the menu items that are decent (I do like the fried chicken) and I would stick with those and probably be quite happy. I like the vibe and I can see it being a good lunch option for that area. But I don't get out much for dinner and need better when I do. The kitchen shouldn't be off on Saturday night and we had two poor dishes out of two (the short ribs and chicken and waffles).

              2. s
                slradcli Nov 17, 2011 09:34 AM

                I took my fiance for his birthday (his choice). He had the chicken and waffles and they were pretty underwhelming. Fried chicken was done well but it was under-seasoned and the waffles tasted like your standard Aunt Jemima mix. My "BBQ Smoked Jerk Chicken" had no flavours of smoke, jerk or barbecue. Portion was way too big: two thighs and two drumsticks! It was covered in an overly sweet barbecue sauce and again, no seasoning. The mac 'n' cheese on the side was tasty though. I like the cornbread starter but the serving size was ridiculous (two mini-muffins) for $5.

                -----
                Harlem Underground
                745 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                1. scarberian Jul 3, 2012 02:32 PM

                  My wife and I were in the area of Richmond and Church just after 11am today and decided to finally give Harlem a try (of course we were dining at the 67 Richmond St. location not the Underground location). First off, we were the first customers so that's always a bonus to be first.

                  The place has a funky vibe to it and their menus are in the shape of 12" vinyl records. We decided to eat inside (although the patio looked inviting with funky graffiti style art on the walls) and there was a nice breeze blowing through the whole place as they had all the windows open. The interior of the dining area is a maroon or dark red colour accented with black and dark blue. They also have some local art hanging on the walls. They have good size tables for four as well as larger tables with bank seating to one side. It's small and cozy. We were greeted right away by the hostess who also doubled as the waitress. She was very nice and chatted with us at times. She was attentive and automatically re-filled our water. The music was hip, not pop and not blaring. Overall the atmosphere, interior and service would get a 9/10 (I didn't care too much for their bathroom).

                  Now there is a few things to choose from on their menu. Being early our server said that although they usually don't serve mains at this time there's always an exception and they would make whatever we wanted from the menu. We started with the Buffalo Chicken which were bite sized pieces of double coated (NOT breaded) boneless chicken thigh meat covered in a tangy, mildly spiced, sweet sauce. My wife ordered chicken and waffles and I ordered the curry veg. stew with coconut rice and salad.

                  FIRST important note about Harlem : their servings are very generous, almost bordering on American style servings. For $9 we got a bowl loaded with Buffalo Chicken bites piled high. My mistake was not controlling myself and so I ended up getting almost full from it. For me, it was addictive. Each piece was well cooked; juicy and crunchy. The sauce was excellent, quite tangy but I found no kick to it at all. That said, I'm used to spicy so for ME it wasn't spicy, but for others it might have the kick they need.

                  Now the first strike against them was my wife was really looking forward to having chicken and waffles. Our waitress informed us right after submitting our order that the chef had forgotten to plug in the waffle iron so we would have to wait 30 min. for the waffles. She was apologetic and I commend her for apologizing for the chef's mistake. My wife was really looking forward to trying the fried chicken so she just replaced the waffles with Mac n' Cheese.

                  After wolfing down the Buffalo Chicken, our mains arrived. Again generous portions and I'm a big eater. My veg. curry stew was very good especially with the coconut rice. It had kale, okra, carrots, onions and mushrooms with a nice curry sauce. I could only eat half of my order due to the Buffalo chicken.

                  Now the star of our lunch was the fried chicken. Man just from the few bites I had of my wife's meal these bad boys were delicious. I actually enjoyed these over the Stockyard's fried chicken. They were double coated (think of the extra crispy KFC chicken but done right) and had a very nice spice mix to it. The meat was juicy and you get 3 large pieces (my wife got a drumstick and 2 thighs). It also came with a nice dipping syrup that was tangy. It has to be the best fried chicken in Toronto. Remember I've had the Stockyards fried chicken and this just tops them.

                  The second strike was the Mac n' Cheese. The portion again was generous, but it lacked flavour and wasn't creamy at all. Very underwhelming. Mac n' Cheese is soul food and should be done right. I've had better MnC with Kraft. They really need to fix this. First of all it should have been baked and maybe with a bread crumb topping. Secondly it should have tasted more cheesy.

                  Overall for food I would give them a 7/10.

                  Would we go back? Of course we would. I'd like to try their other offerings (as well as the fried chicken!) and need to remember their portions.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: scarberian
                    h
                    hungryabbey Jul 3, 2012 05:25 PM

                    Hm, that's too bad about the mac and cheese. We always go to the Underground location, and their mac and cheese is some of my favourite. At least all the times I have had it, its been VERY creamy, with a rich cheesy flavour, and lots of bubbling extra cheese on top. I like my mac and cheese on the sausy side with extra cheesy "pull", and this one delivers. Maybe there is some inconsistency amongst the two locations.

                    www.abbeyskitchen.com

                    1. re: hungryabbey
                      scarberian Jul 3, 2012 06:21 PM

                      I know it should have been creamy and cheesy, but nope, it had no pull, no cheese flavour. Someone in an earlier post mentioned about the food being hit and miss and maybe this is an example of that - between the two locations or maybe on this given day. We took home the Mac n' Cheese and I "fixed" it and my wife was much happier. I added bacon, Romano cheese, a touch of nutmeg and baked it with a topping of breadcrumbs and butter. DAMN delish =9 !

                      1. re: scarberian
                        h
                        hungryabbey Jul 3, 2012 06:48 PM

                        Good fix! The mac and cheese Ive ordered at Underground has bacon and breadcrumb topping and lots of cheese on top. See photo attached.

                        www.abbeyskitchen.com

                         
                        1. re: hungryabbey
                          scarberian Jul 3, 2012 06:58 PM

                          That does not look like the MnC we got. Ours was just plain with no topping. It actually looked like it came straight from the pot not the oven/broiler.

                          1. re: scarberian
                            justsayn Jul 3, 2012 07:30 PM

                            The one time I had their MnC it was early too. It also looked like it came straight from the pot and it was more watery thin than cheesy good! I can see how it could thicken through the evening, but apparently our cheese topping was just forgotten...

                            1. re: justsayn
                              scarberian Jul 3, 2012 07:36 PM

                              Hey justsayn were you at the Richmond St. location or the Underground? I'm wondering if it's a problem with the early shift chef at the Richmond location. You just described exactly what we got.

                              1. re: scarberian
                                justsayn Jul 4, 2012 03:23 PM

                                Richmond. I now go to Queen but havent tried the MnC again.

                    2. re: scarberian
                      Googs Jul 4, 2012 07:32 AM

                      Oh that fried chicken. Now you're making me wanna go to Harlem and soon. I use that fried chicken as The Mark others must hit.

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