Brooklyn has a new rooftop hotspot for cocktails and seasonal Mexican fare.
elNico opens atop the 11th floor of Penny Williamsburg, a boutique hotel with 118 rooms in the heart of North Brooklyn. The newest addition to the Sydell portfolio – creators of NoMad, Freehand, and LINE brands – Penny is created as the brand’s younger artist sibling. At 118 rooms, the hotel shares a building with Bard College classrooms and dorms. elNico is the final touch at Penny Williamsburg, with the restaurant’s name derived from ancient Greek and Italian roots meaning “victory for the people.”
“Penny Williamsburg is named after my pet chihuahua, who is a force of nature in a little body. Penny Hotel and elNico may not be the biggest or flashiest, but they are full of spirit and heart and character way beyond their size,” says Sydell CEO and Founder, Andrew Zobler. “This is the most intimate and personal of Sydell’s work to date, a reflection of our passion for art and the ability of the creative spirit to enliven a space.”
elNico offers a modern approach to classic Mexican fare plus seasonal, ingredient-driven cocktails to be enjoyed with sweeping views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.
After serving as executive sous chef at The NoMad London, Chef Fernanda Serrano, who grew up in Mexico City, is leading the kitchen elNico. This is the 30-year-old chef’s first venture with full creative control, guided by her past experiences at New York’s Cosme, Mexico City’s Pujol and at the three-Michelin-starred restaurants El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, Schloss Schauenstein by Andreas Caminada in Switzerland, and Osteria Francescana by Massimo Bottura in Italy. The menu is a culinary journey through her career, featuring casual, yet elegant dishes rooted in her Mexican heritage along with elements of her worldly travels and the Latin diaspora.
“I’m excited for guests to see and taste dishes that I grew up with that have gradually evolved, just as my palate has, while working in some of the world’s most notable kitchens, pulling in new techniques and ingredients to present my version of Mexican cuisine,” says Serrano. “So many of our team members hail from across Latin America and I’m looking forward to having our Brooklyn neighbors and travelers joining us at elNico to experience our collective Latin perspectives on food and drink, knowing it will be a meal or drink not easily forgotten.”
On the menu are shareable small plates and large format dishes showcasing ingredients from urban farms and producers in the tri-state area. Highlights include the Caviar Sope with salsa cruda and crème fraiche; a vegan Pink Mole with beet, tahini, fennel, kumquat, and pine nut; a Tlayuda with tzatziki, market veggies, pomegranate, and sumac; a Green Sikil with sikil pak verde, dukkah, sourdough, and tarragon; and a Tamal with poblano sauce, mushrooms, rajas and quesillo.
For the table, highlights include the Pulpo Pibil, fried octopus with toum, xnipec, potato chips and tortillas and Carne Asada, skirt steak with spring onion, garlic, shishito, bone marrow, chimichurri, guasacaca and tortillas.
Complementing Serrano’s menu are beverages by James Beard Award-winning author and beverage director Leo Robitschek, creator of the award-winning bar programs at The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park. Along with bar director Christian Rodriguez, the two have played on their heritage (Venezuelan and Peruvian, respectively) for a vibrant beverage program aiming to be as zero-waste as possible. Cocktail ingredients are sourced by upcycling elements from the kitchen, derivatives of Serrano’s dishes. In addition, an extensive wine list is available, along with agave spirits.
“This project has been especially close to my heart as it allows our team to express our cultures to the fullest, leaning on favorite drinks of mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins and reinventing them in new ways that hopefully spark sense memories in our guests,” says Robitschek. “We created elNico’s beverage menu to appeal to any style of drinker from those early morning meetings to the evening night-cap and are excited for Brooklyn to come make us their second living room.”
elNico has 109 seats, including 13 bar seats, and is open for dinner (Sunday & Monday, 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m., Tuesday & Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Thursday – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – Midnight). In the following weeks will open for breakfast and lunch (8 a.m. – 2 p.m.) and weekend brunch (Noon – 3 p.m.). Reservations may be made 30 days in advance via Resy with limited walk-ins available.