Smothered with Two Sides
328 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, NY 10027
A wise photographer friend of mine taught me that gravy can be very hard to photograph. That is no reason to ignore the fact that legendary Sylvia's of Harlem is doing chicken the southern old-fashioned way, and in fact, the sides are as tantalizing as the mains.
Harlem, it seems, has been having its renaissance for about the last three decades and yet two names remain the cornerstone destination for tourists who reside south of 125th Street. Guilty as charged. (I'll cover Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster another time.) Sylvia's can be a very hard table to score, but we hit it on an icy cold Tuesday December night. We were welcomed into the back dining room with its creamy pastels and tasty lighting. While the menu boasted a wide range of specialties, we split our chicken options, sharing up the dark meat "smothered" and down-home southern fried. It just seemed, well, the right way to go. The chicken in both cases was tender, juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender. My gravy had a richness that made me want to lick the plate. My wife contented herself with white meat on the breast, fried just right with a snap to the skin that made her very spare in her sharing. Our sides of collared greens and black-eyed peas came in small white dishes, nothing fancy, except the creamy deliciousness and smoky flavor they both possessed. In fact we loved the simplicity, both of the dishes and the accompanying bill. Sometimes the hype of a famous place can ruin the long-awaited experience. In the case of Sylvia's, the opposite applied. Exceeds expectations. We will be back. The famous chicken and waffles beckon.