Reserve A Table At Brooklyn’s ElNico Restaurant

By Anne Raso

Every table in ElNico at the The Penny Hotel in Williamsburg has a view unlike any other in the tristate area. That’s because it’s a new hotel with 360 degrees of floor to ceiling windows. Located on the 11th floor of The Penny Hotel, you not only see the classic NYC skyline, but you get a stunning view of downtown Brooklyn as well.

To be perfectly honest other influences are in the culinary mix besides Mexican: you will notice that there are several Mediterranean classics on the ElNico menu. Executive Chef Fernanda Serrano, who came over from the Nomad London Hotel to run the ElNico’s kitchen explains, “Both Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines share the passion for tradition and harmony of flavors. I always get excited in learning traditional cooking techniques from various places, but also looking at similarities between dishes.”

She continues with a smile, “Most of the influences come from my travels. One would be the Pink Mole. While on vacation with my mom in Greece, we asked for a beet and orange salad with a spicy sauce that reminded me of a mole. This idea stuck in my mind and while creating this dish I wanted to create a pink vegan mole where instead of a protein, beet was the main star of the dish.” Needless to say, ElNico has plenty of dishes that cater to vegans and vegetarians. There are at least six fish dishes each night as well.

The young Chef Serrano has more than paid her dues at some of the most stellar eateries in Europe and the U.S. “I’ve had the opportunity to work at some of the best restaurants in the world including Osteria Francescana, El Celler de Can Roca, Schloss Schauenstein, and Pujol. I witnessed and experienced each culture created and inspired me to create a dish not only comes from an ingredient, but also from art, music and architecture.”

We asked Chef Serrano about the restaurant’s most popular dishes as well as her favorites and she responded, “The popular dishes would be the Pink Mole, the Carnitas Taco and the Pulpo Pibil. My favorite is the Pulpo Pibil by far—this dish brings nostalgia to me! It is inspired by my mom’s Cochinita Pibil that I enjoyed as a child but instead of pork, I feature octopus, my mom’s favorite protein.”

We had to ask affable Chef Serrano what will be added to the ElNico menu for the winter months, and she remarked, “My friends know that I love chanterelles and eggplant, so be ready to see those two ingredients included in the menu. One of my favorite Mexican antojitos during winter are tamales and churros! It will be a cozy menu.”

The ElNico menu is set up into four sections: apps, tacos and taquitos, small plates and large plates. The Carnitas Tacos are amazingly simple; you get a large five or six oz. neatly cut slab of pork on a fresh soft corn taco with Morita Chile and pearl onion (there are two per order and are only slightly spicy). The restaurant is possibly the only NYC place serving short rib not braised in a brown wine sauce. It’s magnificent. The full name of this large plate is Short Rib al Pastor, and the meaty rib is brushed with pineapple- chili sauce. We also shared the Carne Asada which is tender flank steak served with spring onion, garlic and Salsa Borracha. The super bonus is that you get a giant cow bone full of marrow topped with garden fresh herbs sitting next to a generous pike of roasted shishitos.

For dessert there are three choices per night. Try the Carajillo Sando, a gourmet ice cream sandwich with outer shells made with dark Mexican chocolate. The uniquely textured homemade chocolate ice cream filling has a bouncy texture somewhere between mousse and mochi and is made with both chocolate and Licor 43! The Fresas Con Crema is also a winner and it’s a creamy concoction of strawberry, pink peppercorn and Mascarpone.

Being situated in Williamsburg, ElNico gets a cutting-edge fashionista crowd with every table taken by 7 pm. “We have a mixed clientele, most being neighborhood locals. I would say the view is something that separates us from other Mexican restaurants in the area. Each place represents Mexican food in their own way, so I’m happy that locals have more options to experience food in different varieties. People can come to ElNico and be sure they will have creative and amazing food and cocktails, and one thing I’m proud to say is that you will be received by a happy team excited to have you,” she said

We add that the service is friendly, and the staff is knowledgeable about wines and cocktails. Because of the gorgeous view, guests want to linger, and they can rest assured that no one will rush them out! The mixologists behind the bar are happy to introduce you to new cocktails and will tailor them to your special requests. You’ll even be able to try a Strawberry Tomato Margarita made with Patron Silver Tequila, Aperol, tomatoes, strawberry and basil!

All photos courtesy of ElNico Restaurant. For more information, visit penny-hotel.com/elnico