In addition to being an incredibly talented musician, Questlove happens to be quite the foodie. It was he who first pointed me in the direction of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which became a favorite documentary. I’ve learned to trust his recommendations so when I saw him raving about his meal at Clay on his foodstagram, I made a note to check it out. I heard it was more of a special occasion spot so we saved it for a nice meal when Mark and Allison were here. I can now say it’s on the shortlist for future celebratory occasions.
With white walls, pipe banisters, and pottery style dinnerware (it’s called clay, after all), this place takes in a minimalist vibe. The ambiance struck me as very different than most Harlem restaurants.
We started with drinks. I love the chile “rim” on Allison’s quiet fire cocktail, which was actually a stripe down the side of the glass. My midnight sun was also very tasty. At $16 per cocktail, however, we only had one before switching to wine and beer. This may be an uptown spot, but those are downtown prices.
For appetizers we got a meat and cheese plate (good), duck fat potatoes (very good), and beef tartare (very very good). I like my tartare without too much stuff on it and this was simply seasoned and adorned with nothing but a light crisp that allowed you to actually taste the meat, unlike bully toast.
When I looked around the table after all the food arrived, I noticed five of us ordered pasta. My beau was the only outlier with his pork tenderloin order. It was super tender and juicy with just enough apple glaze to make it taste like fall without being too sweet. I got the garganelli with house-made sausage and kale because it’s the dish I had saved from Instagram so many months before and has been thinking about it ever since. It did not disappoint. The pasta was perfectly al dente and it wasn’t too saucy so you could really sink your teeth into the ingredients. When I told the waiter how much I liked it, he said that’s because the pasta is made fresh daily.
For dessert we couldn’t help ourselves and got two. The doughnuts were fresh and so soft. I also really liked the topping on the yogurt panna cotta. While the panna cotta itself wasn’t bursting with flavor but they butter crumble gave it some much needed texture and the fig and wine gastrique added some flavor.
While there are a ton of amazing restaurants in Harlem, there are fewer fine dining spots so this fills a much needed niche. It’s great to be able to stay in our own neighborhood for a really nice meal and not feel like we’re sacrificing quality for convenience.