Soul for Foodies

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:06

The Cecil cooks upHarlem history

Former Time-Warner CEO Richard Parsons and his wife opened two new restaurants in Harlem, Minton's and The Cecil as a neighborhood restoration to bring back the local legendary 1930's/1940's jazz club Minton's Playhouse and its aura. The revived Playhouse also resides in the original location uptown but has been redesigned as a contemporary jazz supper club.

But it's the next-door sister restaurant The Cecil that nourishes the memory as well the appetite. In new era Afrocentricity, The Parsons conceived The Cecil as Afro-Asian-American brasserie. It integrates culinary traditions of the African Diaspora with traditional Asian and American cuisines. Alexander Smalls, formerly the chef/owner of the critically acclaimed Cafe Beulah, was appointed Executive Chef of both Minton's and The Cecil continuing Harlem tradition. Small aids Parsons in gustatory curatorship. This revitalized Harlem venture places cuisine next to music as traditional African American art forms.

What's preserved in this venture is Harlem cultural history. The original Minton's Playhouse opened in 1938; it pioneered a movement in modern jazz featuring such legends as Thelonious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The club's regular jam sessions became internationally renown from then to now. As part of music-dining hub's offerings late night weekend service includes a special musical tribute to the Bebop era, Minton's at Midnight.

Parsons tells why: "As an avid jazz lover for years, it has always been a dream of mine to open a supper club where guests can enjoy the sounds of great musicians while dining on great food in elegant surroundings."

As Chairman of the Jazz Foundation of America, Parsons recalls "The culture and atmosphere that once defined Harlem's night scene and made it a destination, has waned through the years but Harlem is experiencing a renaissance and our hope is that these two restaurants will help solidify and propel this rebirth."

Caribbean designer and architect Sarah Garcia makes The Cecil her first U.S.-based project in collaboration with architect Tonja Adair, who use large windows to open the space for public spectatorship. It is an extension of the foodie and music experience to the street. Each windowed panel is like a living mural of art and dining in Harlem. Special Christmas and New Year's "performances" will take place at both venues.

The Cecil holds forth at 210 West 118th Street and Minton's at 206 West 118th Street. Reservations are not required, but suggested. For more information you can call212-866-1262or visit the website at