New rooftop bar and restaurant, elNico, opens today, May 9, on the 11th floor of Williamsburg’s Penny (288 N 8th St.), a small boutique hotel. elNico serves Mexican cuisine from Executive Chef Fernanda Serrano and cocktails from award-winning industry veteran Leo Robitschek.
Executive Chef Fernanda Serrano is a Mexico City native who has worked at some of the world’s best restaurants including Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York. “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,” said Serrano.
Chef Serrano’s menu includes both small plates and larger dishes, showcasing ingredients from urban farms and producers in the local region. Highlights of the menu include Serrano’s take on classics like caviar sope with salsa cruda and crème fraiche and a vegan pink mole with beet, tahini, fennel, kumquat, and pine nut.
Dessert includes a choice of the sando 43, which is an espresso cookie and Licor 43 ice cream sandwich or fresas con crema, which is fresh strawberries with pink peppercorn and whipped mascarpone.
elNico’s bar program is run by Leo Robitschek and Cristian Rodriguez, both from Manhattan’s NoMad and Eleven Madison Park. The pair pulled inspiration from their shared experiences as immigrants, with Robitschek from Venezuela and Rodriguez from Peru, and together developed a beverage program that is heavily influenced by Latin America and Mexico.
The bar program focuses on local sourcing and seasonality while simultaneously featuring ingredients found around Latin America. Working in tandem with Chef Serrano, they are aiming to be as zero-waste as possible, utilizing ingredients from root to flower and upcycling from the kitchen.
The cocktail menu is divided into four sections. The first is the classic section which includes unique interpretations of classic cocktails, like a rhubarb margarita with Ocho Blanco Tequila, rhubarb, Aperol, yuzu, and lime. The fresh section highlights seasonal and evergreen ingredients at their peak and includes a cocktail called Turn the Beet Around with Paranubes Rum, Patron Silver, lime, yellow beet, pineapple, and vanilla.
The preserved cocktail section includes ingredients whose flavors have been expressed through techniques like pickling and jamming, or creating shrubs, sodas, and infusions, and includes the Paw Paw Pineapple with Mitcher’s Rye, pineapple skin soda, paw paw ver jus, cinnamon, and morita chili. The fourth section includes non-alcoholic offerings that play off childhood favorites of Serrano, Robitschek and Rodriguez with spins on Agua Fresca, Horchata, and a Batido. elNico also offers an extensive wine list.
The design concept for elNico was inspired by an artist’s plant-filled loft. The restaurant is filled with an abundance of plants and colorful elements, plus an installation of whimsical paper sculptures made from recycled materials by local artist Yuko Nishikawa. The space features indoor and outdoor seating and two private terraces offering views of the Williamsburg and Manhattan skylines. There is also a custom, built-in DJ booth and plenty of space for live music and performances.
elNico’s home, the Penny, is a small hotel with 118 rooms from the Sydell Group. The Penny was named after the Sydell CEO’s pet chihuahua because the boutique hotel reminds him of a small chihuahua with a big personality.
elNico is open for dinner Sunday and Monday 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 5:30 p.m. – 11 p.m., and Thursday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. – midnight. In the coming weeks, the restaurant will also be open for breakfast and lunch 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. and weekend brunch noon – 3 p.m.