I was recently invited to dinner at one of the newest restaurants to open on Eighth Avenue. It is yet another French bistro in Harlem, but Israeli born owner, chef Kfir Ben-Ari, brings a Mediterranean touch, giving new life to the former troubled new American style restaurant space.
I met Ben-Ari at the end of 2016 on a stroll down the avenue. He was feverishly prepping for the night’s service, but took a minute to chat with me about his road to Harlem and his new restaurant.
Ben-Ari is classically trained, having studied at the world-renowned Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France. With additional experience in South America, he moved to New York City to work with chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel and gained a sommelier degree. As a resident of a couple of years, he knew Harlem was the place to fulfill his dreams of owning
his own restaurant.
A colleague and I arrived to RDV (2072 Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212-222-8952, www.rdv-nyc.com), decorated to celebrate Bastille Day with bleu, blanc et rouge balloons. After we sat and before we could blink, a glass of cold, crisp rosé befell us, along with a bright, “bonsoir” (“good evening”) from our server—the glass never stayed empty.
We started with RDV’s home spreads of olive tapenade, basil green peas, lemony cannellini beans, romesco, eggplant caviar, sundried tomato pesto and soft cheese and herbs de Provence with a selection of bread from the “to share” menu. It was a great way to awaken our taste buds for the meal and perfect for a nibble over drinks.
Moving on to “small plates,” I most enjoyed espellet fried oysters served with shaved Persian cucumbers, white cheese, za’atar and caraway. Hot meets cold, creamy meets crunchy; great play on the palette. Also, we enjoyed perfectly cooked grilled octopus, although its accoutrements of chickpea salad and grilled polenta lacked flavor and purpose on the plate.
For our entrées I ordered moules frites du jour (steamed mussels of the day, served with fries) and my colleague, the highly recommended, half Amish chicken: brined and seasoned for two days, seared and roasted for exactly 17 minutes. The presentation of the chicken was gorgeous, with thin shaved candy cane radish, beets, squash and Brussel sprouts dispersed throughout and finished with pan jus; however, that great presentation left the skin soggy. Moist and flavorful, yes, but I need that crispy skin, chef!
With a couple of sweet macarons and a seemingly bottomless glass of rosé left, we departed onto the avenue happy. À votre santé chef and team, merci beaucoup et bonne chance!
Happy eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for more than 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at AmNewsFOOD@SCHOPnyc.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!