As you try to find Semilla, there’s a chance you might end up in some random guy’s apartment. Semilla’s address is 160 Havemeyer #5, because there are oddly multiple buildings numbered 160 Havemeyer on this given block in South Williamsburg. Unknowingly, our friend walked into the first 160 she saw - an apartment building - and rang the button marked #5. She walked upstairs, knocked on the door, and said she was there for dinner. The man who opened the door seemed confused and said he didn’t speak English.
Semilla is actually located right on the street, but the restaurant does feel a little like you’re hanging out in someone’s apartment. A trendy, minimalist apartment with branches hanging on the wall that may get stuck in your hair.
Semilla evolved out of a pop-up called Chez Jose that a number of our friends (including the one who ended up at the random guy’s front door) had raved about when it was open a few years back, which is largely why we ended up there. In the new, permanent incarnation, they serve a $75 frequently changing tasting menu, which promises to be mostly, if not all vegetarian. The restaurant’s 18 seats are set up in a U-shape that faces the kitchen, with an aisle down the middle for bringing out the 10 courses. The chefs and hostess regularly stop by to basically just say what’s up and ask how you’re enjoying the meal, which lends an inviting vibe.
People were psyched about the Chez Jose pop-up because it was both homey and delicious, and Semilla does hit those notes at times. But on our visit, some of the dishes were a little too rich or too salty, while others, like dessert-y beignets that came out around the middle of the meal, tasted great but seemed just a little too random.
We weren't exactly sure what to expect at Semilla, and if you go, you really won't either, because the menu changes constantly. But generally speaking, don't expect a big slab of meat. Do expect root vegetables with which you're vaguely familiar. Hello, burdock! And do expect an experience that even if not always entirely delicious, will certainly be interesting. Hey, you might even meet the guy upstairs.
The menu changes, but here's what we had on our recent visit:
Burdock Arancini With Miso
The meal started off with a fried rice ball with some miso sauce. It’s hard not to like a rice ball.
Charred Baby Leeks With Romesco
This was basically one long, grilled leek per person, and at this point in the meal you don’t have silverware, so you’re dipping the leek into some sauce with your hands.
Some little potatoes sitting in a block of salt, with a dipping sauce.
Mushrooms With Radish And Sunchoke Purée
This dish went too heavy on the salt for our taste, which didn’t seem necessary at all since we could tell the ingredients here were straight from the farmer’s market fresh.
Somewhere about halfway through, they bring out some crusty bread and well, friends, that is some very good bread. It comes with a side of both butter and sour buttermilk, which was a cool twist.
Butternut Squash Soup With Cheese, Green Tomato, And Romenesco
The squash was nice, but the cheese made this soup very rich. That cheese sauce would probably make an excellent fancy mac and cheese.
Squash Blossom Beignets
The addition of squash blossoms might suggest these were more savory, but they were actually topped with powdered sugar and basically tasted like good little donuts. We would gladly have these anytime, but as dessert.
Celery, Celery Seed, Celery Root Tagliatelle
This is a good pasta if you really, really love celery.
Quince With Mint And Mascarpone
This was either dessert #1, or #2, depending on how you count the beignets.
Fig Leaf Ice Cream With Buckwheat And Concord Grape Reduction
The ice cream is served in the size and shape of a hockey puck, with green polka dots of sauce on top, and crunchy buckwheat on the bottom. We enjoyed it.