Natural wine and seasonal food were our main criteria when choosing a restaurant. Hemlock has been on my list for a while, and we gave it a try.
Hemlock – a poisonous herb of the parsley family having finely cut leaves and small white flowers used medicinally as a powerful sedative (Dictionary.com)
Hemlock is a tiny Lower East Side spot with simple, minimalist design, an open kitchen, and very friendly staff. Short but well-curated wine the list carries natural wines, from France, California, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and even Portugal, and almost everything is under $100 a bottle; recent vintages mostly meant for approachable drinking. We came specifically for the orange wine, so our eyes naturally headed to the Skin Contact section of the list (the term ‘orange’ has been coined to skin contact white wines because they often take on orange color). Our wine guy Taylor kindly offered us to taste a few that he had already opened. The one from Portugal was young and lovely with minimum skin contact, so it tasted almost like a regular white. In contrast, the one from Languedoc was slightly oxidative, perhaps as a result of prolonged maceration. It was clear we wanted something in between, a lighter style wine with maybe few weeks of skin contact. The Ograde from Skerk (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Italy) was exactly what we wanted (Thanks Taylor). Ograde is a sensual white blend of local grapes – Vitovska, Malvasia, Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio. It’s clear and precise, with a blush color that comes from Pinot Grigio. Extremely aromatic and delicate, it has enough structure to pair with any type of food, seafood, cheeses or even meats. Delicious!
Food was a bit hit-and-miss but good overall. We ordered several small plates and few entrees, which was enough for us 3. Well, it’s a small plates restaurant, so bear in mind the portion size. But the quality of ingredients and flavor combination were excellent. The menu is seasonal, so the ingredients change often. It is divided into 3 sections – small plates (mostly shellfish, fish, and veggies), larger small plates (fish and meat) and desserts. Short and to the point!
Lamb Ribs glazed in coffee, black cardamom and Meyer lemon
Sweet Potato Bread and Burned Leaf Butter, $6; Razor Clams with Bergamot and Almond Oil, $16; Wild Salmon with Pink Lady Apples and Fennel, $17; Lamb Ribs glazed in coffee, black cardamom and Meyer lemon $27; Whole Roasted Bobo Chicken glazed in fish sauce and ginger with marjoram Salsa Verde $34.
My rating: 4 out of 5. Will come back for more natural wines and veggie plates.