Mountain Bird Finds A Perch in Spanish Harlem

 Overlooking East 110th Street

Overlooking East 110th Street

Fans of ‘Mountain Bird’ will be delighted to hear it’s been sighted at 251 East 110th Street. Until now, the ‘bird’ has refused to stay on one perch. Notwithstanding its popularity and critical acclaim, Mountain Bird, originally at East 145th Street in Harlem, was forced to close because of lease issues. After taking a year sabbatical, the owners have reopened in collaboration with the events organization Tastings Social.

Who’s Who

There are many unusual restaurants in New York, but Mountain Bird may be unique. Located in El Barrio, Spanish Harlem, the husband and wife team of chef Kenichi and Keiko Tajima, natives of Japan, have opened an intimate 31-seat French bistro with a small bar, tucked into the ground floor of a red-brick rowhouse. They are hoping, and so are we, this will be their permanent home.

Initially, the menu at Mountain Bird showed a devotion to poultry, with items ranging from coxcombs to talons. The chef has a passion for cooking all parts of the birds in French style, and those who have tried the gizzards and coxcombs raved about the experience.

What’s to Eat?

On a recent visit, there were many entrees other than poultry to choose from including a divine braised wild boar shank served with mashed potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms in a translucent red wine sauce. It couldn’t possibly have been better! The same goes for the succulent duck magret with gratin dauphinois in the small pot (center). Note the ‘MB’ on the fine china and Keiko who oversees the front of the house.

Also tempting on the menu that evening were the crispy pork knuckles with braised red cabbage and potato salad, and —it doesn’t get more French than this! —a sole Dugléré with roasted potatoes and sautéed spinach in a white wine sauce. This dish requires poaching the fillets for fifteen minutes before bathing them with cream-based sauce and slipping them into the oven. A dish better enjoyed in a restaurant than at home, by those of us who keep our recipes simple. Each evening they feature seafood and vegetarian options.

 Where good friends meet…

Where good friends meet…

Appetizer choices included an ostrich tartare and fois gras; black truffle chicken wings in a Parmesan sauce; and duck and burrata with a balsamic dressing. Under “Nibbles” to go with drinks, there’s a Bird’s Goodie Plate which includes a pheasant pate, chicken liver mousse, duck prosciutto and a chicken gizzard confit. A great sampler.

What’s to Drink?

The wine list is decidedly French —from Alsace, the Loire, Sancerre, Burgundy, Haut-Medoc and Provence—and the cocktails whimsically named: La Parisienne, Dear Messieurs and French 69.

The service is attentive and caring, the kitchen creative and outstanding. The by-word for Kenichi and Keiko is ‘cooking with love.’ The prices are modest with hospitality included. An extra cash tip is appreciated.

The Nitty-Gritty

Checking Zagat, I found the following: ‘a true standout,’ ’expertly overseen,’ and ‘the space is cute but small…don’t tell anyone.’ 4.5 for cooking; 4.0 for décor. And 4.4 for service $$ Other comments on various sites include: Fit for foodies. Neighborhood gem. Good for a Date.

Mountain Bird is a perfect spot for those autumn dishes you’re hankering for. Located at 251 East 110th Street, just west of Second Avenue, it’s open Tuesday - Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 11:00 to 3:00 for brunch, and from 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Closed Mondays. (212-744-4422, ext. 1)

One last thought in parting: News on the street this morning: ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ set a single-show record of 1,659,647 visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, breaking the record set in 1978-79 by the King Tut exhibition. The five month run is over, but if you missed it, click here to see ‘Heavenly Bodies: A Gift From the Haute-Couture Gods.’

And that’s it for this week mes chers amis. Hope to see you back next week, when I’ll have the coffee ready. En attendant de nous revoir may life be good to you. And if you would be so kind, remember sharing is caring…Merci beaucoup!