Location: 2331 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10027
Cuisine: The lovechild of Caribbean and Gastropub Fare.
Best Dish: It is often the simplest cuisine executed well that makes the greatest impression, and the Yucca Fries paired with their house made Green Chili Aioli was a dish we returned to again and again.
Overall: For a restaurant that is located off the beaten path, its décor and cuisine could rival that of any New York City dining hot spot.
When co-owners Karl Franz Williams and Julie Grunberger set out to create a Caribbean restaurant in an expansive uptown space not far from the Hudson River, they didn’t reach for the kitschy palm trees or hues of black, red, green, and yellow to showcase an obvious West Indian influence. Instead, they decorated the eatery and Rum Hall in an industrial, bistro-style taking cues from its Manhattanville Factory District locale. There is a warm glow in the space that is heightened by exposed brick, vintage map wall coverings featuring the West Indies, and intensely gorgeous photographs of people of color by Barron Claiborne. Around the bar, you will find corrugated tin, aged rum barrels, and sugar canes that accent a wall that has over 100 international rums.
Like any good wine pairing, the only thing needed to compliment such a well-designed space is a superb executive chef, and they have that in Christopher Faulkner. With a family background that includes six generations of Brooklynites, a father from the British Virgin Island, and cooking history that includes working in three of famed chef and restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian restaurants, it comes as no surprise that the executive chef feeds your belly and your soul.
Crispy Escovitch of Porgy
This starter was a great way to begin our island experience. The chewy seafood bite had a mild crunch and a peppery kick that was non-overbearing and easy palate opener.
Pulled Jerk Pork Coco Bread Sammies
Pork Buns have become a ubiquitous staple in New York City. But what distinguishes a great bun from a mediocre bun is, quite simply, the flavor of the meat, and Chef Faulkner does not fail in this department. The jerk seasoning is perfect and makes for a great collaboration between Asian and Caribbean cuisine. One bite will make you wonder what other dishes may be enhanced by the same fusion.
Set your visions of shoestring cut potatoes aside and allow us to introduce you the best comfort dish east of The Hudson River. Made from the root portion of the plant, these Yucca Fries are crisp on the outside and light and textured on the inside. They are accompanied by the chef’s house-made chili aioli sauce which cools the piping hot fries and adds a slight tinge of spice.
Shrimp and Yam Sauce
The shrimp was cooked perfectly and served as a great protein addition to the smooth and creamy yam sauce. Chef Faulkner also did a great job balancing the flavors which included peanuts and cilantro.
Pineapple Cake & Tres Leches
Tres leches. Three milks. And yes, it will bring all the boys (and girls) to the yard. The cake is made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and has an unexpected fluffy quality. And as the topper, the chef adds whipped cream, coconuts, and salted caramel. Like we said, “all the boys to the yard!” Its pineapple companion, on the other hand, is more sponge-like. It is also very moist and topped with sweet pineapples. Both dishes were a wonderful final act that concluded our culinary journey to the islands.
We would be remiss not to mention two amazing sides that were recommended to us by one of the owners – the house-made goat merguez sausage and the chili plantain crumbles. Both are made in a way that makes you feel like you are enjoying dishes from a favorite family member while maintaining the quality and uniqueness you would come to desire in a restaurant. The tender juicy goat meat and spice blend are absolutely mouthwatering, and the plantains are given new life with the added burst of vibrancy that is given by the chili peppers.
The standard that is set by the décor and food at Solomon & Kuff is maintained at the bar. The mixologist not only put on a show – like the flaming Some Kinda Blue cocktail – they also serve up great drinks and conversation. Classic cocktails like Rum Punch and Old Fashioned are reworked and given new flavors in the Venture’s Punch, which is made with nutmeg, and the Re-Fashioned, which is made with apple bitters. For more tropical-inspired drinks, the Sorrel Is All That You Can Say (hibiscus, ginger, rum, spice, mezcal, and Prosecco) and the My Mother Ruined My Tonic (gin, bay and sage reduction, mango, lime, agricole, and tonic) are both light and fruity. One of our favorites was the Kentucky Blossom (rum, bourbon, orange blossom honey syrup, cinnamon, lemon) that was comprised of great fall flavors and rich character.
Typically, if you’re looking for amazing Caribbean food you need to be equipped with plenty of cab fare and equal amounts of patience. But now, Solomon & Kuff makes satisfying your craving a breeze. If you’re looking for the perfect place to enjoy comforting food, feel a “vibe”, and maybe even spot a celebrity or two, we highly recommend you head uptown. And when the temperature finally drops in the city, it will be the best place to warm your body and your soul.
Psssstttt…you never know who you might run into at Solomon and Kuff. When we stopped by we spotted actor Titus Burgess catching up with friends.
For more information head over to www.solomonandkuff.com.