While I unfortunately can't say I'm nearly qualified enough to talk about historic Harlem, I do really love walking around it. Uptown Manhattan in general is such an interesting place — the parks, the brownstones, the street names all give a feeling like there's this whole other parallel Manhattan a midtown stiff like me has never experienced.
The food especially is worth the trip on the 2 train. I recently headed up to 139th St to take in the flavor of Ponty Bistro Harlem, a West African/French fusion restaurant well in the hands of the Chefs Cisse.
Here's the thing with being a sandwich blogger: most restaurants don't realize you're a sandwich blogger until you're actually there, and the look on a chef's face when he realizes that is bit of a let down. I suppose one doesn't go to years of culinary school in the French tradition to make turkey clubs.
But I knew Ponty Bistro was my kind of joint from the get-go. Chef Cisse came out and introduced himself and said, "Sandwich guy, right? I got you," and disappeared into the back. After a glass of wine and some of the best lobster bisque I've ever had outside of Maine, he emerged ten minutes later with lamb and chicken chawarma wraps.
Kelly and I had half of each, and before I go any further — both were incredible. This was my first honest-to-god chawarma (outside of like, street meat, which is almost its own style at this point), and it was a beautiful experience.
While both were more than satisfactory, I did like the chicken a little more. The lamb was amazing, but if I'm honest, the flavor of the lamb was SO much that it overpowered the mint sauce and African spices a bit. The chicken was a touch more subdued, which allowed all of the flavors surrounding it to speak a little louder. Sometimes, the bass section needs to let the piccolos be heard for the whole orchestra to work, ya feel me?
That said, I can't recommend either wrap enough. The space itself was inviting, with cozy lighting and happy conversation setting a warm ambience, and the service was excellent and attentive. If you're in the area, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better weeknight date spot, or even a solid delivery option during work hours.
Does your restaurant have a sandwich I've just got to try? Get at me! I want to eat it!