Renaissance Interior
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Food Before Love was cordially invited to the Grand Opening party of Renaissance Harlem. As a VIP guest, we helped the restaurant, which opened its doors last year, toast to their official grand opening celebration.

The classy and suave styled restaurant is located in the heart of Harlem and absolutely stands out. The building was previously home to rapper Doug E. Fresh’s restaurant, Doug E.’s Chicken & Waffles. Once Chef Cisse and his co-founder and cousin Chef Cheikh Ali acquired the building, they made it their own. The interior is beautifully designed, lined with brick walls and topped with an uniquely designed ceiling. The intimate yet spacious setting provides a cozy modern eating experience.

Renaissance Interior
Photo by Renaissance Harlem.

Chef Cisse and Chef Cheikh are also the owners of Ponty Bistro, which is just a few doors down. Although born of the same minds the restaurants are polar opposites when it comes to cuisine. Chef Cisse says none of the African French cuisine of Ponty Bistro can be found in the New American menu of Renaissance Harlem. He says it was important to stay in the neighborhood because Harlem is home for him and his cousin. The Senegal born chef has called Harlem home for many years and felt it could use a place like Renaissance Harlem, which infuses the cultures and foods that make Harlem what it is.

The Food

We had the pleasure of sampling a few hors d’oeuvres and cocktails that were reflective of the local culture. To wash down the fish empanadas, Thai chicken wings, and stuffed mushrooms, the chefs served cocktails.

The cocktails were made with liquor from Tambour Original and Kaiso. Two liquor brands Renaissance highlighted during their grand opening. Tambour Original is an African Palm Liquor whose history dates back hundreds of years when West Africans were denied liquor during the European colonization. Kaiso is a potent blend of coconut water, premium vodka and tequila that brings in New York’s Caribbean culture. Renaissance is one of handful of places in NYC where both brands can be found.

Cocktail made with Kaiso.

I’m excited to head back to Renaissance Harlem to taste more of their Harlem-inspired menu. My taste buds got great vibes from this place and I think yours will too!

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A sermon is something that speaks to your soul and that’s exactly what my meal at The Food Sermon did.

For my first edition of Plantains Before Love, we dined at The Food Sermon, a quaint first come first serve seating Caribbean restaurant nestled in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. Upon immediate entry the restaurant was aesthetically pleasing! The simple décor and wooden benches were reminiscent of a local restaurant on a tropical island with beautiful white tiles lining the walls to add a modern twist. Through the speakers played old school calypso and classic island tunes my father would love.

Now onto the reason why we’re here…the food! The menu is build your own bowl style with the basics: a meat, rice, beans, and gravy. The meat options are lamb, jerk chicken, salmon, and tofu for the non-meat eaters. Rice options are brown and white rice. Beans are red beans and chickpeas with either a bold coconut ginger sauce or a spicy tomato sauce to complete the bowl.

For my bowl I had the jerk chicken with white rice, red beans, and spicy tomato sauce! By the time we ordered the dinner rush had started so the cashier did warn us there would be a thirty-minute wait but we are absolutely okay with that. One of my fellow Food Before Love insiders had visited The Food Sermon before and assured me it was well worth the wait.

Our meals came in a little less than the expected thirty minutes, piping hot and plated to perfection. The bowls were assembled picture perfectly just as displayed on their site.

Jerk Chicken Bowl with White Rice, Red Beans, and Tomato Sauce

After taking my picture I dug in and was immediately satisfied! The jerk chicken was actual jerk chicken and not a poor imitation that unfortunately is too common nowadays. It was made with a jerk season versus jerk sauce. So if you are not a fan of spicy foods I would suggest you stay away from it. The rice and red beans were cooked to the perfect texture, not too mushy or too hard. I did have some reservations about the tomato sauce when ordering because of the tanginess tomato sauce can sometimes have but I also wasn’t in the mood for ginger. That wasn’t a problem with this sauce. It was perfectly flavored and not too robust like a spaghetti sauce.

All of the components and their seasonings worked together to make the bowl a non typical Caribbean dining experience. The best way for me to describe my meal is hearty! The portions are also very generous. I was able to leave a great size back for lunch the next day. I asked for some extra tomato sauce to take home and the next day the meal was just as amazing as the night before.

I give The Food Sermon not only thumbs up but all ten fingers and toes up! I plan to make my way back to the restaurant in the next week. My only warning would be the spacing, I would advise going just as they open if you plan to dine in.

Until next time Foodies!

Bon Appetit!

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