Imagine if you asked a friend if they had a favorite actor, and they named someone from Law & Order. You’d probably look at them quizzically, while slowly backing away and saying, “Are you sure?” Because unless they’ve never seen another television show or movie, no one’s favorite actor of all time is someone from Law & Order.
In a similar way, Hemlock isn’t going to be anyone’s favorite restaurant of all time. It’s a good place with interesting food, and if you like checking out new restaurants downtown, we’d feel confident sending you there. For an analogy of the music variety, here’s one that may describe this restaurant even more aptly: you can think of Hemlock as a B-side track that has plenty to offer, but likely won’t ever top the charts.
Why does Hemlock feel like a deep cut? The most obvious reason is that it’s located exactly 384 feet from a truly outstanding #1 single - Wildair. And the two places have a lot in common.
Like Wildair, Hemlock is a little space serving small plates of interesting food and natural wine. At both places, you’ll find a lot of vegetables, and a menu where each dish is a list of ingredients like “Sunchoke, Kumquat, and Black Cardamom” or “Sweet potato, ricotta, tahini.” Hemlock’s renditions are pretty enjoyable, though it does sometimes feel like the ash or shiso or bay leaf oil were thrown in primarily for the sake of seeming different or unusual. As a result, we’ve found ourselves saying more, “Oh, that was pretty interesting” and less “F*ck I absolutely need to eat that again” after finishing dishes at Hemlock. At Wildair, you say both.
We’d say the same things about Hemlock if it were located elsewhere, but the fact that all you have to do is cross Allen Street does make the comparison inevitable. So put it this way: if you haven’t been to Wildair, go. If you have, and you’ve also been to De Maria, and Lalito, and Estela, and the other Lower East Side and Brooklyn restaurants doing what we’ve been calling The Cool New Stuff, then absolutely give Hemlock a try. You sound like the kind of person who likes those b-side deep cuts. But don’t try to convince us your favorite actor is from Law & Order. That’s not a thing.
Razor-thin slices of raw squash topped with stuff. We wish there were a little more stuff. Like a sauce.
A really nice crudo with plenty of olive oil and salt, and pickled plums to keep things interesting. One of our favorite things here.
This bread is delicious, if you can get over the fact that it costs $5 and may come in the middle of your meal.
A solid plate of three tangy, saucy ribs, for some reason relegated to one far side of the plate. For an aesthetic reason, we assume.
This looks like a stock photo for “cool trendy dessert circa 2017.” It’s really good.