Inside Mountain Bird, Harlem's Latest Hot Spot

By Billy Lyons  |  January 21, 2014

Though the fall's restaurant opening schedule was dominated by high-end spots like Villard Michel Richard, one new low-key kitchen, Mountain Bird, is starting to pick up some strong word-of-mouth online. We decided that all of that talk was making us hungry and a trip up to Harlem was in order. Chef Kenichi Tajima's quaint dining room has found some ingenious ways to serve up various types of poultry - special dishes include duck gizzard and heart, chicken wing lollipops, chicken schnitzel and a turkey leg goulash. The 19-seat Harlem restaurant is the first for the chef, who's worked under French legends like François Payard and also attended Tokyo's famed Tsuji cooking school. For a photo tour as well as a few tips on what to expect from our recent trip, check out the slideshow below.

231 W 145 St; 212-281-5752

  • Securing a Table

    We can't stress enough the importance of securing a reservation. The tiny restaurant fills up quickly, and in the two hours we spent at dinner,  several groups came in looking to score a table only to be turned away. Since there aren't many great restaurants nearby, this could put an early end to your evening. However, a server did note that Sunday brunch is open to walk ins if you happen to be in the area.

  • Picky Eaters Beware

    Though a few menu items steer clear of the farm - if you look hard enough you'll even find a few seafood dishes - this restaurant is for the birds. Main courses revolve around chicken, duck, and turkey prepared in a variety of ways. (And one of the specials was an ostrich tartare.) Dining on chicken livers and hearts (pictured) isn't for everyone. If you're looking for a restaurant that offers a wide range of menu items, finding a dish here might be a challenge if you're picky about poultry.

  • Nose-to-Tail Dining 

    When a menu includes a section entitled "from head to toe," we know we're in for some out of the ordinary body parts. Chicken liver pate, duck gizzard, and a chicken lollipop coated in a sweet black truffle sauce (pictured) comprise the starter plate.

  • You Won't Have to Yell

    With the sound of opera music gently serenading us throughout dinner, we were actually able to carry on a conversation without having to shout out our order. Though tables are tightly packed together, the ability to enjoy a quiet meal is a welcome change in the NYC dining scene. The homey decor and amenable service - one waitress presided over the entire dining room - created a warm atmosphere that set the tone for the evening.

  • The Menu Is a Serious Value

    The chicken schnitzel entree (pictured) priced at $16 was hearty enough to feast on by itself even without a bowl full of rice pilaf on the side. Overall, the most expensive main course - a duck breast and leg confit - is priced at $23, which we found more than fair. Bonus: For now, the restaurant is still BYOB.