The Vegetarian Perspective

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Another seed in the vegetable forward trend | Semilla Brooklyn

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Another seed in the vegetable forward trend | Semilla Brooklyn


Pic via NY Times

Chef Jose and Chef Pam have done a great job with Semilla, a tiny “vegetable forward” restaurant in Williamsburg, with just 18 seats around a U-shaped chef’s counter, allowing just enough space for servers and chefs to walk up and down the narrow corridor in the middle, between the guests and the open view kitchen. Thus Semilla (meaning “seed” in Spanish) seems to be planting another seed in the growing “Vegetable Forward” trend!

In a conversation with Pam, the pastry chef, bread maker and part owner of the restaurant, she mentioned how they previously operated as a pop up called Chez Jose for 3 years before taking the plunge and opening as a full time restaurant. Since we didn’t book far enough ahead, my brother and I just about managed a 10:30pm reservation on a Saturday night. We did have the option to have just a smaller menu consisting of light bar snacks, but we showed up very hungry, so went ahead with the regular 10 course tasting menu for $75.

“Vegetable forward,” does not imply that this is an all vegetarian restaurant – what they mean is, vegetables are at the center of the plate, but meat and fish is still an option. So when asked about our dietary requirements at the beginning of the meal, we both got a chance to voice our preferences, but we didn’t get to see a menu until I checked my email the next day. I went with the vegetarian menu as usual, and my brother went with fish, but no meat. Overall, though, our menus turned out to be exactly the same, with the exception of just a little bit of fish as a garnish on his soup.

So if you want a taste of a cabbage sandwich, a beet and onion tartare, and possibly the best bread you have ever had, while sipping on a glass of raspberry drinkable vinegar and listening to some old school Latin and hip hop tracks courtesy of Chef Jose’s iPhone playlist, then this is just the place for you.



Half way through the meal my brother came back from the restroom with a big smile on his face, as he was amused by the one-way mirror looking into the kitchen (he was smiling as his wave to the chef was not returned, else he would probably have been red in the face).;)

The menu at Semilla changes regularly depending on what’s in season, but here’s a run down of what we ate (minus the fish):

Pear and Parmesan soup
This was served cold in a small shot glass, with the Parmesan overpowering the pear, resulting in a delicious savory soup.

Cabbage Sandwich, Buckwheat groats
Consisted of a little bit of cabbage slaw served in between two crispy fried cabbage slices, with a little bit of crunch from the toasted buckwheat.


Shallot Tart
We polished this off this delectable pastry in just a few bites, which left our mouths watering for the next course.

Sunchoke Chawanmushi with Pickled Potatoes & Mushrooms
As a lover of sunchokes, this was one of my favorites. The textures and flavors of the potatoes in a light broth with vegetables came together seamlessly.


Beet and Onion Tartare
This particular course was not my favorite, as I found it to be somewhat bland.


Kabocha Squash Dumplings in Broth, with Wakame and Soy Beans
The dumplings had a light sweetness in a broth that was like an interesting twist on a miso soup.


Emmer and Whole Wheat Sourdough, Cowbella butter and buttermilk
No jokes, this was by far the best bread I have ever tasted, which is not something I throw around very often. My brother and I were both kicking ourselves the next day for forgetting to ask if we could take the leftovers home with us.

Roasted Carrots with Smoked Potato Puree and Fava Bean Broth
This fresh, light dish was a nice way to end before the first dessert course was brought out.



Vanilla Ice Cream with Bergamot Granita and Preserved Tomato
We were intrigued with the use of tomato in the dessert.


Fermented Oat Porridge with Beet and Brown Butter
We had just about enough room for this and it’s a good thing we did, as it was satisfying and wasn’t overly sweet. The cold ice cream in contrast to the warm pudding worked really well. The best part was that the beets served as a natural sweetener, thus it appeared to be relatively healthy without compromising on taste.


Veggie Friendly: ✔  Vegan Friendly: X (we were advised that it is difficult to accommodate vegans)
Pros: Innovative dishes, friendly staff, a casual relaxed vibe.
Cons: Be prepared to sit on bar stools without backs on a high counter!
Price: $$$ (200 - 500 AED)

Average price for 1 guest without alcohol

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