Why Semilla is One of NYC’s Best Restaurants Right Now
One of the most exciting things for me about the New York City restaurant scene this past decade has been the emergence of semi-cheffy, startlingly tasty comfort food in low-priced restaurants. Burgers, pizza, tacos, mac-n-cheese, salads, fried chicken, ramen, grilled cheese, barbecue, dumplings, sandwiches, bagels… really every category of this sort of "basic food" has seen a host of first-rate places opening everywhere, a real boon to people like me who like to eat a lot of good food. That said, there are also those special occasions where a bit of a splurge is in order, and when I welcome the concurrent NYC restaurant trend of wildly inventive and insanely delicious multi-course tasting menus. For example: the vegetable-forward Semilla, a thoroughly remarkable place in Williamsburg that offers a fixed, ten (or so)-course menu every night for $75, and at which I had what will almost certainly be one of my favorite meals of the year.
Dining at Semilla
I went to Semilla last Saturday night–you definitely need a reservation if you want to do the same–settling into my stool at the rectangular communal dining-bar with no idea what exactly what was in store, other than "mostly vegetables" and "place has great reviews". They don't post that night's menu at Semilla (though they do email it to you later), nor even tell what's coming, and since the night is grouped into two seatings, no one around you is ever too far ahead in the feast. Basically: you get at least ten wonderful surprises–it all looks beautiful, and tastes even better–during the 90 minutes or so it takes to enjoy your feast (lingerers and sobremesa fans can stretch that out if they choose). The format encourages conversation with your rotating team of servers, who are often also your chefs, describing the contents of the dish they just prepared for you in the kitchen.
Semilla's Season-Specific Menu
Your Semilla menu will be different than mine, depending on what's in season and such, but a few highlights of my overall spectacular dinner would include the single perfect Radish, citrus-salted greens intact, that arrived with a generous schmeer of seed-studded foie gras, for dipping; the stalk of Japanese Knotweed (it's kind of like celery) filled with a robust herb emulsion; the amazing Blue Barley and Flaxseed Sourdough bread with potent kelp butter; the intense (and visually stunning) Roasted Carrots, served with a smoked potato puree and a shot of pea shoot broth poured over at the last second; and for the first dessert (you get two) Egg-Yolk Saffron Sorbet on top of smoked cream and a layer of passion fruit. It was all excellent, and I'm sure whatever it is that they make you will be too. Oh and make sure you check out the bathroom "window."
For More Information About Semilla
Semilla is located at 160 Havemeyer Street between S 2nd and S 3rd Streets, and is open on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 6:00 until the last seating is finished. Closed Sundays and Mondays.