Fresh Maine crab and avocado tostada for brunch at Gran Electrica.
Brunch, brunch brunch: We have it all over, but it’s hard to find something new and exciting. Enter Gran Electrica — a high-concept affair on the growing edge of Dumbo featuring farm-to-table, seasonally-fresh meats, seafood and vegetables crafted into authentic Mexican dishes, from sinfully delicious chilaquiles (chips simmered in salsa and cheese with sunny-side-up eggs) and a tostada brimming with crab, herbs and avocado, to my favorites: a beef tongue taco with cilantro and radish, an oyster mushroom quesadilla and a raw, lime-cured, grass-fed sirloin tostada with olive and jalepeno.
“Generally the focus is to try to present dishes as they’d be eaten in Mexico, and really, trying not to put them through the lens of New York City,” head chef Sam Richman told me on a recent sunny afternoon.
“We use the nicest possible ingredients we can use. I use only humanely raised proteins. I can’t go down the street to get amazing chorizo, so I make it myself. I’m proud to. Our chorizo is pretty awesome.”
Richman, formerly of Jean Georges, travelled across Mexico for months to research “the foods I’m trying to rip off,” as he put it, to develop Gran Electrica’s menu and the cocktails to go along with it. The chef started a blog as a way of taking notes in eateries from Mexico City to Oaxaca and Veracruz, Guadalahara to Pueblo.
His efforts were recently awarded as Michelin granted the restaurant a “Bib Gourmand,” for excellence on a budget (defined as $40 a head or less for two courses with wine or dessert), along with Pok Pok and Fatty ‘Cue. And while Gran Electrica is pretty packed on the weekend nights, the brunch is yet to be discovered.
“I’m trying to make really simple, authentic foods,” Richman says. “It’s an incredibly complicated and intricate cuisine, with ingredients I’ve never seen before. A lot of research goes into each dish before we put it on the menu.”
Huevos Rancheros done right
If you are wondering to what degree Gran Electrica takes authentic Mexican to heart, look no further: The restaurant makes it’s own tortillas. As I arrived, co-owner Itir Aloba (who partnered along with her husband, Rick, and the owners of Colonie on Atlantic Ave.) guided me behind-the-scenes to meet two ladies working in the restaurant’s day and night schedule of making hand-made tortillas in the traditional, labor-intensive manner.
It’s quite rare in NYC to find fresh tortillas.
“Here, people think of fresh as buying cheap $1.50 tortillas on Roosevelt Avenue,” Richman says. “It’s under appreciated. But I compare making tortillas to making fresh raviolis and pastas. In the 60s, you’d find people to say that raviolis are poor immigrant food. But now, most New Yorkers appreciate the intricacies of making your own pasta. Making tortillas is similar. It’s actually incredibly complicated.”
In any dish, using great ingredients is the main goal, says Richman, who for instance has taken corn off the menu for the time being because it’s no longer in season.
Gran Electrica Michelada
Cocktails are a priority, such as the Michelada, very refreshing with a nice spice-kick at Gran Electrica, or the non-alcoholic horchata—made with coconut milk and rice milk and topped with cinnamon for a surprisingly comforting and refreshing hangover cure.
And then, there’s the interior design, which is a delight in and of itself.
- The garden.
The outdoor garden is large and airy, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge and lined with greenery, shaded by a large tree. The restaurant is landmarked, as the oldest office building in New York City, Aloba says, dating to 1827. The crisp, cool brick interior features a stunning iron-and-mirrored bar and custom-made wallpaper from Cobble Hill’s own Flavor Paper, presenting a Brooklyn-version of Mexico’s Day of the Dead decor.
Jon Sherman of Flavor Paper came up with this black-and-white Day of the Dead motif–check out the aged, bearded hipsters on bikes and skeletons with strollers. Great stuff.
Aloba says the idea with Gran Electrica was simple.
“We wanted good Mexican in the area.”
Luckily for us, they achieved their goal.
Brunch Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m.
5 Front Street