Clay Is The Neighborhood Favorite New Yorkers Need

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In Manhattan, the restaurant scene moves at breakneck speed. Trendy pop ups and recently-lauded stalwarts, either through show stopping reviews or Michelin declarations, create lines and speedy table turnarounds that, if one isn’t careful, can feel more like the goal of dining out is for the Instagram post than for the food and experience. There are a pantheon of amazing restaurants, chefs, and food experiences downtown in Manhattan, though to a degree they’re all in the race for riding the zeitgeist wave. It can make any eater feel nostalgic for the days of the hometown, suburban restaurant, where the go-to dishes can be depended on, where things never felt crowded elbow-to-elbow with house music playing in the background. Clay, the Harlem restaurant on Manhattan Avenue, recreates all of these feelings with a warm respite from the cold streets of Mid-November, and with food meeting the perfect blend between modern American concepts, with classic Harlem soul put into each bite.   Bass-2 Clay is exactly what you’d want for a Harlem restaurant, a little mellow, a quiet area, a friendly bartender and server, and a portion that feels like the trip up north to 123rd Street was worth it. The space itself is a chic atmosphere with white-painted bricks lit by candles in all corners and on every table. For these chilling months to come, Clay is a welcomes enclave of Harlem to slip into for a great meal and to sip a few cocktails after work.   Chicken Liver 2

The must haves of the menu are absolutely the gnocchi, a light and fluffy, hand-made pasta that feels lighter than any pasta in the city, and the chicken, a perfectly juicy piece with just the right amount of skin for flavoring. The side dishes are also incredible, with options like charred cauliflower, roasted with seasoning, chicken liver mousse, with grilled bread perfectly whipped to be savory and delicious, and a broad range of impressive cocktails from the bar program highlighting any major spirit. As an epilogue to the meal, Clay also has a range of interesting aperitifs and liqueurs from some of the best pockets of the country to send diners off feeling great as they head home.

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Maybe the most impressive thing about Clay though, comes from its interaction with the neighborhood. It doesn’t stand out on the street like the new flashy restaurant with a neon sign out front, but blends into the community as if it had been there for decades. When asked, the staff can look around the room and spot those from other nearby restaurants either enjoying a cocktail at the bar of having dinner with a friend. The space seems to work alongside some of the other Harlem favorites, and genuinely appreciates and is excited to be a part of the incredible history of food in this part of the city. Only 8 months in, Clay is off to a great start. To walk into this restaurant feels like the upscale version of walking into Cheers, where the same level of warmth and welcome is met with some culinary prowess and passion to elevate any favorite hometown dish into something special.

 

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