Over the summer chef Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo made his second foray into cosmopolitan Mexican cuisine with Sembrado (432 East 13th Street, 212-729-4206) in the East Village. The space is slim and sleek, with brushed metal chairs, an exposed brick wall, and a mural of dark, psychedelic flowers at the back. The kitchen focuses on tacos al carbon, hand pressed corn tortillas as fine as silk that are filled with grilled meats. There are a couple of DF-style snacks, like the delicious gringa ($6)–spit-griddled al pastor glued in between two flour tortillas with lots queso chihuahua–plus an excellent roster of mezcals.
The best way to eat is to nibble, converse, and sip, then order another round of tacos al pastor ($3) and maybe a one-ounce pour of the vago elote espadin ($10), a roasted corn-infused mezcal, and satiate slowly.
That dining style yips against the ordering format, which is akin to the Meatball Shop, with the menu printed on long strips of paper. You mark off your selection like a standardized test, which the server will then review with you before handing it off to the kitchen. You’ll have to request your slip back to order more food.
Nevertheless, Mexico City expats will be happy here. Flour tortillas gilded with caramelized cheese form the costras ($5), umami-rich snacks loaded with grilled catus paddles, chopped flatiron steak, or pedigreed chuleta adobada, Berkshire pork chops cut into tiny batons, enhanced by the dense spackling of toasted cheese. The cheese is also served by itself as chicharron de queso ($7), a salty cylinder of crunch, or what the Italian’s call a frico.
Alambres ($13), a stir-fry of onion, bell peppers, and a choice of meat on those delicate tortillas, leans toward the Orient due to a shot of Maggi jugo, a wildly popular, highly processed soy sauce substitute from Switzerland. A side of cebollitas comprises grilled spring onions with a drop of the dark, hydrolysed sauce, and a squeeze of lime ($5). For the freaks who carry around the condiment in their purses to jack up their dishes at will, the onions also come plain ($4).
Scarlett Lindeman is a Brooklyn-based writer, covering the city’s best taquerias, fondas, and cantinas. She writes the ¡Oye! Comida column for Fork in the Road.