Shrimp Al Ajillo ($12)
A common dish done uncommonly well. Garlicky shrimp are seared to a perfect tender crunch with a rich smoky broth of chili and wine. Sopping it up with toasted bread was a highlight of the meal.
Blood Orange Cilantro Margarita ($12)
Like all of the cocktails on the menu, this one is almost sickly sweet. As our bartender said when he delivered a bourbon-based drink to the table, "trust me, you won't even know it's whiskey!" That's not a good thing in our book. My advice: grab a pre-dinner cocktail at 67 Orange Street up the street, and order wine from 5 & Diamond's very reasonable list instead.
Mac 'N Cheese ($8)
I'm not generally one to fall for an overhyped mac & cheese, but in this case the gruyère-based, breadcrumb-topped, ultra-creamy casserole merits the talk. It's available in standard ($8) and truffle-scented ($14) versions Tuesday through Sunday, but come by on Monday and you get Mac 'N Cheese Mania: crab, bacon, or their excellent short ribs can be added to the mix for an extra buck or two.
Friée Salad ($10)
If you're going to serve what I believe to be the only frisée salad in Harlem, you'd better execute it well. 5 and Diamond's comes with sautéed pears and crisp, well-rendered bacon. Its fat coats a heap of crunchy bitter greens dressed just lightly enough that you don't feel bad dousing them in soft poached egg yolk. Do they do that fancy pants French thing where you only get the pale yellow tender stems from the center of the frisée? Nope, but then my neighborhood doesn't seem like a yellow-frisée neighborhood.
Seared Scallops ($14)
The scallops themselves are about as well-cooked as you could hope for. Sweet, nutty brown, with a just-warmed through center. They come in a decent, if over-salted parmesan and mushroom broth. The roasted fennel and bacon tortellini are a nice idea, but pasta is not the kitchen's strong point—it's mushy and chewy.
Sautéed Sweet Corn and Wild Mushrooms ($6)
Sides at 5 & Diamond are both generous and tasty. A near entrée-sized portion of sauteed mushrooms comes tossed with tender, sweet corn kernels and a pinch of fresh thyme.
Grilled Scottish Salmon ($26)
I live next to a 24-hour fish fry shop, but I didn't think I'd live to see the day when a piece of properly medium-rare salmon would be served in Harlem. The fish is fresh, tender, and moist enough to excuse the shortcomings of the accompaniments: an overly sticky chive risotto and an odd slaw of jicama and mango that is neither crunchy nor complementary. A side of grilled asparagus would be both tastier and more seasonally appropriate.
Housemade Pappardelle ($18)
The theme of poor pasta runs through to the main plates as well. 5 and Diamond's "Housemade" pappardelle makes you wish they'd just ordered out instead. It's a real shame, because the short rib ragú flavored with melted Manchego is one of the better things on the menu. They could easily replace the mushy pasta with more of the creamy cranberry beans and have a winning plate on their hands. The short ribs fare far better getting stirred into their mac and cheese on Mondays.
5 and Diamond Burger ($13)
The best dish of the evening was another return to well-executed classics. The 5 and Diamond Burger ($13) is a seriously juicy, beefy piece of meat with a nice, fatty chew and a hint of sweetness reinforced by oven-roasted tomatoes served on top. You don't need (or even want) to add ketchup to this one, and their skinny fries rival the best of the style.
Parmesan Quinoa ($6)
The quinoa gets mixed with a healthy dose of parmesan, coming out with the texture of a sticky risotto, but far lighter on the palate. It's an interesting take on one of the hot ingredients of the moment.
Sticky Toffee Pudding ($8)
Though it may have been due to the state of their oven, the sticky toffee pudding we had was completely skippable, coming off more as dry toffee-flavored cake. They claim their doughnuts are "famous," which is usually a good sign to steer clear, but I'll have to try them on a future trip nonetheless. And I will be back.