The Clever Root

Winter / Spring 2016

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5 4 | t h e c l e v e r r o o t STREETBIRD Long known as the home of soul food, these days, Harlem is more a place of soulful food, thanks to the new wave of diverse chefs bringing their eclectic tastes and flavors to the table. And nowhere is that happening as quickly as in the area surrounding Freder- ick Douglass Boulevard below 125th Street—a stretch generally bookended by the Red Rooster and Streetbird Rotisserie restaurants owned by chef Marcus Samuelsson. Like many of the new restaurateurs, Samuelsson lives and works in the neighborhood. Before landing here in 2010, the Ethiopian-born, Swedish-reared Samuelsson was the award-winning chef at the Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit. He tried his hand at fusion: Asian (Riingo) and African (Merkato 55). When he arrived in Harlem, single-named restaurants—Melba's and Sylvia's—serving soul food, and mom-and-pop greasy spoons were the neighborhood offerings. Now, five years later, after an "if you build it, they will come" surge peppered Frederick Douglass Boulevard with eateries, Samuelsson added Streetbird Rotisserie, a high-energy, hip-hop diner featuring five types of rotisserie chicken and a bevy of globally inspired sides. "I watched this street develop and I wanted to achieve two things: do some- thing that was really of comfort and also [about] diners, because when I think of Harlem, it really has this sense of diner community—more so than of restau- rants," he said. After haute Nordic and fan-dangled fusion, why the humble chicken? "Rotisserie chicken speaks of many countries—for me, it's not a concept. When you have churchgoers to Japanese tourists to local Harlemites [coming]—that's not a concept, that's a [sign] of what this incredible neighborhood has to offer," he says, adding that Streetbird is more "everyday neighborhood." He credits his mother for helping him "crystallize his DNA" by advising him to cook for the kind of people he grew up around—"middle-class people working really hard." "It's not a coincidence that I put both my restaurants in front of a bus stop and subway because that's an every-day, very simple [way] of being part of the community." Streetbird Rotisserie, 2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd. Chef Marcus Samuelsson outside his Harlem restaurant, Streetbird Rotisserie. Streetbird Rotisserie is a high- energy, hip-hop diner featuring five types of rotisserie chicken and a bevy of globally inspired sides. The slow-roasted "116th Bird" is Streetbird's most popular chicken (left) and owes its juicy meat/crisp skin balance to its house-made tamari and brown sugar brine. The Notti Greens' (below) seasonal mix of sautéed greens includes bok choy, roasted green beans and green onions, topped with roasted peanuts and crispy shallots.

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