The Cecil

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I’m not always uptown, so, I sometimes slack on all the great places that are there. But, this past weekend, I was in Harlem and got to experience dinner at The Cecil. This Afro-Asian-American brasserie (yes, it’s quite the combo) opens into a cocktail bar, with some seating in a cozy environment. Then, through the passageway, it opens up into the main dining room, chic, with large, beautiful paintings around the space. 

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To drink, I ordered the Blood and Fire (Olmeca Altos Blanco Tequila, Jamaican Sorrel, Fresh Lemon Juice). Now, I was a little confused when the drink wasn’t spicy, as its namesake would infer. Where’s the fire? Luckily, our bartender was quick to recommend the addition of some chili peppers to make all that happen. So, I usually love spicy tequila drinks, but, perhaps adding this chili into the drink may have altered its intended taste. Next time, I might try it as is, or, go for the Thai 75, which sounded really great. 

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To start, we had their Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid (Okra, Sweet Chili Peanut Sauce). This was awesome. I love squid, spice, peanut sauce, well, ok, all of these ingredients, so it wasn’t hard to decide on this one. It was really delicious, the squid was fried just right, not too much breading, but just enough to hold the drizzles of sweet chili peanut sauce, which gave it a little kick and smoothed out the flavor at the same time. 

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For my entree, I ordered Citrus Jerk Wild Striped Bass (African Fonio, Okra, Burst Tomatoes, Parsnip Purée). I really enjoyed this dish as well. The bass was tender and delicate, absorbing the savory, yet subtle flavors from the other components. It was my first time having fonio, a grain, which to me was a bit similar to small grain couscous. Set atop the creamy parsnip puree, the textures of all the ingredients went really well together.  

The Shorts:
Name: The Cecil
Location: 210 West 118 Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Yes, the vibe here is really great and the service was excellent.
Would I recommend it? I mean, how many places have you gone to that are serving Afro-Asian-American fare? Exactly. So, yes, I would recommend checking it out. Lots of options and flavors to choose from. 

 

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Empellón Taqueria

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I’ve  said it before, I’ll say it again and one thousand times over, I love Mexican food. Love. One of my most favorite places to go for some amazing drinks and delicious Mexican food is Empellón Taqueria in the West Village.

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You walk into a dimly lit room with high ceilings, but still gives off a warm environment. There’s also another room in the back, I’ve dined in both before, and honestly, it doesn’t matter which room you’re in, the food will all taste just as good. There are contemporary twists to the decor with some classical Mexican influence.

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The drinks here are really great, and I’m a margarita aficionado. I got the Spicy Cucumber (Pueblo Viejo Blanco, St Germain, cucumber puree, jalapeño tincture, fresh lime, chile salt). It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy and a lot of amazing.

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To start off, I got some of their Guacamole. The chips are thick, salty and crunchy. The Guac is fresh and simple, just using basic, delicious ingredients. It’s creamy, but has a great texture with the pieces of avocado, chopped raw onion and fresh jalapeño slices.

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Then, I got one of my favorite things, their Octopus (parsnip, pumpkin seeds, salsa papanteca). The octopus is sliced into little medallions, tender and flavorful with a bit of a sweet and spiciness from the salsa papanteca. Then, you have a great contrast in texture to compliment the octopus from the parsnip and pumpkin seeds for crunch. Tying it all together, there are a few dollops of cream to balance all the textures out.

The Shorts:
Name: Empellón Taqueria
Location: 230 West 4th Street, NYC
The Long and Short: Would I go back? Not my first visit here, and definitely won’t be my last.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely. I also heavily recommend their Fish Tempura tacos, they’ll make you so happy.