5 & Diamond opened with a big splash under the direction of the city’s chef/bad-boy wunderkind Ryan Skeen. After a tumultuous few months and some very hush-hush dealings, Skeen is out. For many restaurants, the loss of a star chef is a surefire way to sink a restaurant. Yet, somehow, 5 & Diamond has not only managed to survive but to thrive with a new chef, a talented kitchen, and a mostly charming staff.
Nicely situated in a neighborhood I rarely visit, 5 & Diamond is a pioneer in the epicurean gentrification of Harlem. Regardless of how you feel about the new gourmet movement north of Central Park, it has produced a few interesting restaurants, including Marcus Samuelsson’s new spot Red Rooster. A slick and discrete storefront just 2 blocks off Central Park North, 5 & Diamond is an intimate affair. With under 40 seats, exposed bricks walls, soft lighting, and a neutral color palette, the upscale neighborhood eatery’s resulting ambience is cozy, warm, and easy-going; it’s a dead-ringer for just about any casually elegant restaurant south of 14th Street. With affordable prices, accessible food, and friendly service, it’s the type of place you could eat at any night of the week, whether with family, friends, or just by yourself at the petite bar.
The menu at 5 & Diamond is tantalizing; it’s the tasty and accessible new American stuff you want to eat. Expect a decadent gruyere mac & cheese, a hearty salad – perhaps with scrumptious goat cheese nuggets and shallots, the truly wonderful 5 & Diamond burger, and other comforting dishes like sliders, braised lamb shank with sweet corn, a thick pork tenderloin with smoked bacon and figs, and a hanger steak. The seared scallops starter is light and lovely, with a delicious caramelization and a pool of sweet and savory fuji apple & date puree. In the mood for a ‘salad’? The heirloom tomato salad is refreshing with tart bites of red, green and yellow tomatoes doused in basil oil and drizzled with creamy burrata. Where the appetizers are deft and airy, the entrees are hearty and satisfying. The 5 & Diamond burger is just plain delicious with a fluffy buttery bun that’s not too bready, a thick juicy 9 oz patty of premium beef, a thick slice of gruyere and plenty of delicious meaty flavor. Served with a mess of perfectly crispy skinny fries, it’s really hard to go wrong with this burger variation. Even the pasta is good at this distinctly un-Italian spot. Long strands of homemade pappardelle are smothered in a pleasantly salty and savory lamb ragout with rich melted fontina cheese. It’s everything a pasta dish should be: rich, comforting, and packed with flavor. The menu is simple and seasonal, accessible to all, and fancy enough to attract the growing yuppie neighborhood crowd.
5 & Diamond is a comforting and comfortable sort of place. It’s strangely reminiscent of the casual spots in the West Village, yet without the steep prices. The food is delicious and safe, just the stuff you want to eat without thinking too hard about it. It’s hard not to like this unassuming and cozy spot clearly geared towards the Harlem gentrification crowd, and if you’re willing to venture above 100th Street, it’s very pleasant pick!
Perfect For: village eats uptown, friend dates, Columbia students, cheap eats