TravelNoise: Clay, New York City
If you ask any ‘older’ person about Harlem, they’re likely to tell you they avoided the area for ‘whatever’ reason. If you ask a younger person about Harlem, they’ll either tell you it’s the new Brooklyn or they’ll tell you the area has been so vastly gentrified, you can’t see the history behind it anymore. Everyone has their own perspective, but if you want to know who Harlem really is, then you have to visit Clay.
The farm-to-table restaurant puts community first by partnering with local suppliers — even their dinnerware is made right here in Brooklyn. Most of all, eating at Clay provides a togetherness feel that reminds us as New Yorkers how important it is to connect with one another.
Walking into the restaurant, my guest and I noted that it appeared more as a chic, comfortable home than a sit-down joint. Small sleek tables lined the intimate space while we watched in awe as the bartender shook and muddled behind the bar. The menu itself is minimal and modernized, making us feel like we weren’t chasing some old-school recipe but rather were encapsulated in the now.
Our host walked us through a few of her favorite menu items while steering us in the direction of some drinks (important). For a bevvy, I went with the Good Morning Headache ($16), made with gin, beet, pink peppercorn, genepy, lime and hibiscus rose bitters, while my guest opted for the O Pato ($16), duck fat-washed rye, thyme-infused dry vermouth, bitter aperítif, orange and cherry bitters. My drink was bright and peppery with a surprising smoothness while my guest’s was herbaceous, bold and had a rich cherry aftertaste.
Onto the food, of course: we were talked into the Endive, apple, roasted pine nut and buttermilk salad ($16) and the gnocchi, fava, pea, king oyster, hazelnut, sage and pickled Fresno ($22). The salad was nutty, sweet and balanced by the saltiness of the buttermilk dressing and the gnocchi was pillowy, light and comforting enough to tuck right in on a rainy, sleepy day. Needless to say, we were in heaven already.
After some thought on the entrées, I chose the confit duck leg, celeriac, smoked farro, collard greens and blueberry gastrique ($32), and my guest was swayed by the grass-fed strip steak, soubise, panisse, king oyster, pearl onion and salsa verde ($36). We also had to try the cauliflower with turmeric and honey ($9). The duck was juicy as hell while the farro was fluffy. My favorite part, though? That blueberry gastrique, which sang through the entire dish. My guest’s dish boasted buttery, melt-in-your-mouth steak and perfectly crispy panisse. The cauliflower worked well with both dishes and was well-spiced and rich.
The freshness of every ingredient was clear and actually made us feel a bit lighter than we expected. That naturally meant we were going in for dessert. The chocolate budino, merengue chips and spiced candied pecans ($10) and the mini donuts, blood orange and lovage ($10). The budino was dark and addictive with the lovely texture from the merengue and nuts while the mini donuts were super fluffy with a flash of citrus.
I’ve had my moments with New York. Between the delayed subways on my commute and hoards of people shuffling along the sidewalks, I’ve found peace on more than one occasion. One of the brightest occasions? Visiting Clay.