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by Lynn Green
October 26, 2010
|Alvin & Friends|
All the finest aspects in life are reflected in New Rochelle’s newest restaurant, Alvin and Friends, a warm and welcoming environment that celebrates the arts as much as it wows the palate. I have had the pleasure of sampling its offerings three times since it’s unofficial opening…and I, frankly, can’t stop thinking about the savory flavors and imaginative creations that its innovative chef, Raymond Jackson, has chosen for this venture. The Alvin of the title is Alvin Clayton, who along with his gracious wife Gwen, are hometown folk with a passion for both food and esthetics.
From the minute you step through the door, you know that this latest addition to the New Ro scene is going to be different. Guests are greeted by Alvin himself, whose charisma and charm make friends of all who enter. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never met him before, his sincerity is evident. Alvin means for his place to be a haven from the rest of the world; one that embodies camaraderie and the unique character of the New Rochelle experience. Diverse, eclectic, original and overflowing with spirit. A community where the arts are celebrated and people value engagement.
|A comfortable setting...|
Alvin’s vibrant paintings line the walls, as bold and evocative as the cuisine it complements. Walking through the doors from Lawton Street, it’s as if you had stepped through the looking glass to a Caribbean destination. And after one glass of Alvin’s special rum punch…you may even believe you are on vacation. The décor is still evolving, as lush banquettes are on the way (we are told the fabric is coming from Italy) but what is already there is eye-popping. Yet as luxurious as it all feels, it never verges on uncomfortable or pretentious. The same is true of the cuisine, comfort food elevated to extraordinary. As for service, it fits the bill of a restaurant that prides itself in “friendship”. The staff was gracious and caring, anticipating needs and always on hand to fill the glass or answer a question.
Chef Raymond Jackson’s creativity blends Southern cuisine and Caribbean favorites with innovative twists that surprise and make one take notice. His Jerk Chicken Wings win the “three S award”: Spicy, smoky and succulent and my fellow diners raved about the Curry Mussel Bisque with its tangy broth and plump mussels. Not being a mussel fan myself, I only tasted the broth, but that was enough to make me a convert. My choice, Barbecued Shrimp came nestled on creamy grits, with fried sage topping it off like a crown. It was both beautiful and memorable – one of those taste sensations you think about on a cool night when you want something warm and comforting.
|Jumbo Lump Crab|
Other crowd-pleasers were Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes – rich with meat and not even a tad greasy, crunchy on the outside with plenty of substance on the inside – served with Creole Remoulade and Mirleton Chow Chow. Even the Caesar Salad was reinvented here. Not the humdrum usual plate overflowing with lettuce, but a wedge of Romaine with Buttermilk Scallion Dressing and Fried Peas as an accent.
As for main courses, you can’t go wrong with any of Chef Raymond’s variations on traditional Southern themes, each spiked with a surprise dash of something exotic. There’s Grilled Lamb Loin Chops, served with Coconut Rice and Beans with Green Papaya Slaw; Spice Rubbed Catfish, with Black Eyed Peas, Watercress and Corn Maque Choux; and Jerk Duck with Calabaza Bread Pudding and Onion Marmalade in Port Wine-Fig Sauce, to name just a few. And though I haven’t yet sampled it, the Crispy Fried Chicken is reputed to be like none other. Can’t wait to go back for a tasting of the goodies I have yet to try, as well as the new creations that are still to come.
Alvin & Friends
49 Lawton Street
New Rochelelle NY