2110 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard off 126th Street
$110 for two, with two drinks, without tip
Updated, 2007: Pier 2110 was short-lived
I’ve been living more than twelve years uptown, three of those in Harlem. When I go to a restaurant in the neighborhood, I’ve come to expect that there’d be little to no ambiance and the food will be very simple but down-to-earth. So when a new restaurant bills itself as “Harlem’s Newest Jewel”, I believe it but I expect more.
The Korean-owned Pier 2110 tries hard to be that jewel, but so hard everything comes out garish and overpowering. I know they mean well, serving seafood dishes the locals are already accustomed to and revitalizing the neighborhood, but for a $21 plate of pork chops, I don’t want steamed broccoli with it smothered with plum sauce and then call it “plum-glaze.” My catfish was equally intriguing on their menu: pan-roasted with sweet potato purÃ©e, broccoli florets, fig and rosemary compote and bourbon cider sauce. But for $19, I didn’t expect an overcooked limp fillet with a soup of mashed potato.
They’ve been up and running for almost a month now but the service still needs a lot of sharpening. The maitre d’ didn’t have our names in the computer even though I secured reservations a day before. (No shorts and sneakers allowed, by the way!) A busboy interrupted our waiter and his announcement of the specials to let us know that the rolls were still in the oven. We waited for a few minutes to get our waiter’s attention to ask for a knife to eat our pork chops with–he picked up the knife from the table setting next to us. (He came back with a steak knife after we rejected that.) In between courses, he brought out the bottle of Purell–I am not kidding–so we could squirt and sanitize our hands. He offered us tea before the dessert menu which I thought might be a good way to end our lackluster evening. To our surprise, he came out with a beautiful jeweled box full of…Celestial Seasonings tea bags.
The restaurant’s decor is ocean-themed, but their idea of high-end reminds me of the Red Lobster in Times Square. There are cascading water on glass walls and small fountains, stained glass artwork and aquariums everywhere. There is a “sushi” station offering all kinds of California rolls in the middle of the room, perhaps the same space where Billie Holiday used to perform during the Vaudeville Era. (In fact, the building used to be the Alhambra Theater in 1905.) The staff was very attentive, but Pier 2110 has to offer the kind of service–and food–that’s worth $110 for two people.