At the event I recently went to, chef Anita Trehan called Marcus Samuelsson the “pied piper of Harlem,” a recognition I think he’s earned. Samuelsson has been instrumental in the revitalization of the Harlem neighborhood, including his help in organizing the Harlem EatUp! festival. The festival, which donates proceeds to local charities, includes the “stroll” (a stretch of vendor on Saturday and Sunday), a concert, and a dinner series featuring Harlem’s best chefs. Now in its 3rd year, Harlem EatUp! showcases the best of Harlem, and I’m so happy Albert was able to snag us tickets through work. I was always kinda into Harlem, but now I’m pretty sure I want to move there asap.
The event we attended was part of the Dine In series at new, popular restaurant Chaiwali. Chef and Owner Anita Trehan joined forces with chef, Daniel Holzman (from the Meatball Shop) for the evening for a night of Indian/meatball fusion. It may sound strange, but it was delicious and totally unique, kinda like Harlem. Holzman took care of the apps and first course, Trehan handled the entree and dessert, and Bordeaux Wine Council offered the wine pairings for the evening.
We started out in the courtyard – yes, Chaiwali has a lovely garden; point for Chaiwali – for a few apps. We listened to Natu Camara’s music while we snacked and chatted about how it finally felt like summer was on its way. There was a mini chaat on roast lentil wafers, a chorizo and manchego meatball in a delicious sauce (sorry, can’t place all the flavors but loved them), a chicken parm slider with yogurt sauce, and a vegetable tomato meatball slider. All the apps were amazing, especially that chorizo meatball, which perfectly married the two cuisines. The apps were paired with a rum chai toddy shot. I really liked the chai flavor, but I’m not really into rum so that obviously wasn’t going to be my favorite so after one I switched to vino.
Once we were seated, we were served a spring vegetable risotto with snap peas and carrots. It was good, but compared to everything else we had been eating, didn’t have such a powerful flavor.
For the entrees, I shocked even myself by choosing the vegetarian option. I went with the spiced cauliflower steak with lemon sauce. It was amazing. I also tasted Albert’s cumin crusted salmon and Alex’s vindaloo lamb chops. Not a bad bite anywhere.
The dessert was my kind of dessert – not too dessert-y! We each had about half a grilled peach with coconut saffron creme and a mini badam cake with olive oil and orange. The peach got all that good grill flavor but still remained firm, and I’m a big fan of spice cake and much prefer it to traditional, frosted desserts.
Oh! And we got to take home some sweet foodie swag, courtesy of Macy’s. I actually can’t wait to use these products, especially the BBQ sauce. That’s going to be soooo yummy on some pork chops.
Even without an event like this happening, I would love to go back to Chaiwali. The food was fabulous, and it’s always nice to enjoy a more modern take on Indian food. It’s a little more “now” but still feels as comforting as ever.