First of all, allow me to say I respect a restaurant that respects a root vegetable. Semilla, located in the center of Paris has many glowing strong points, as well as some not so hot points, which I’ll break down in this positive yet honest review.
It goes without saying that the food at Semilla is expertly prepared. The Chefs are highly trained and the food is absolutely exquisite: cooked and seasoned to perfection. There were exciting and eccentric choices and absolutely melt in your mouth flavor combinations. Even a simple lentil and cardamom soup amazed.
We went as a large group of eight for lunch last week. My family was in from London for the day, and my parents were visiting from the States, so I wanted to choose a place that would speak for the food here in Paris in one single meal. I’d never been, but have read nothing but positive reviews, so I figured we’d give it a whirl.
Not to mention, while the dinner prices can be a bit steep (about 15-30€ for various selections, tastings available as well), Semilla offers a prix fixe lunch menu at 24€ (perhaps it fluctuates slightly on the day to day). This included an appetizer sampler, a standard at lunch, of three different selections of the day. Based on what I’ve seen on Instagram, this is their standard offering; a small soup, a small salad, and an interesting third thing.
Gastronomic cuisine always surprises me. When they set the plate down in front of me I thought we’d be hitting the pizzeria next door after lunch to fill up sufficiently, but that was hardly necessary. A velvety lentil and cardamom soup, a salad of golden carrots, house made pesto and pickled vegetables, and a crispy falafel plated on top of a mint fromage frais (fresh cheeselike yogurt sauce) all surprised me. I could have made a meal of two (or ten) of those. It filled me up too, especially given the piece of pillowy sourdough bread I ate. I had a piece, but I think we must have gone through three or four baskets of it. I appreciate a restaurant that keeps the bread and water coming without having to ask for more.
For the main course, a choice of meat, fish or vegetable. Alternatively, you can opt out of the prix fixe and indulge in a large steak for 35€. The choices, which change daily, were lamb over celery root puree, fish with coconut milk braised beans and purple brussel sprouts, or a vegetable plate of puree’d vegetables, mushrooms poêlée, and smoked potatoes. In hindsight, I regret to not order the vegetable dish, just to see what it was like. Most had lamb, some had fish, all enjoyed. The lamb was served very rare and fatty, however. I like my meat full of fat and still breathing, but for anyone who was not a rare-meat lover, you would have been disappointed, even skeeved. The celery root puree was the highlight, and the very particular spice brought the lamb and the puree together perfectly. We asked the waiter what it was.
Five minutes later the chef appeared, a friendly English lad who happily explained to us that it was in fact fennel seed and fresh cracked pepper. I had just read a recipe on the First Mess that combined fennel seed and celery root, so I was excited to try the intriguing combination for real. What a fantastic meal it was, and at a great value.
That being said, I would say that the menu is curated to appeal to a rather specific palate. Make no mistake, this is a phenomenal restaurant, but if you’re a picky eater who likes options more than you like rare meat, this is not the restaurant for you. I’m a flexible and adventurous eater, so I enjoyed myself immensely. Ultimately serving cuisine as they wish is the right of Semilla, but I suppose it’s your right to choose whether or not you’ll go. I like when a restaurant tweets or posts their menu of the day, but since you’ll need a reservation to eat here on most days anyway, c’est la vie.
Now the nitty-gritty. The service was excellent, albeit only in French. The ambiance is gorgeous as well. Perfect for a business lunch, a get together with friends, a meal with parents, or an intimate date. Lunch was an excellent value, dinner seems expensive, though incredible. The variety of their menu du jour seems consistently excellent as well. I almost fell over upon reading of a roasted octopus in a tomato and sobrasada sauce. Be sure to check out their Instagram geo-tag to see some more photos and menu choices; each looking better than the next.
The wine is poor and overpriced. Skip the vins du moment, which were tart, sweet, and intense–and at 25€ a bottle–a bit of a letdown. We had a better bottle at 33€, but even so, we didn’t love it.
Overall, worth it? Yes, at lunch. But have a beer, and then hit the bar elsewhere afterwards, or head to Frenchie Wine Bar for dinner. What’s that? You’ve got money to spend? Head in for dinner, skip the vins du moment, opt for the menu tastings, and settle in for a meal to remember.
Where: 54 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris | Metro: 10 Mabillon, 4 Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 7 Pont Neuf | Open: Lunch + Dinner, every day. Takes reservations, cards and cash okay. | How Much: 25€ lunch prix-fixe, 15-30€ per selection at dinner, tastings for 55-65€ per person. Wines 25-35€ and up, half beers 5€, cocktails available as well.