I enjoyed my first meal at Serrano during a Book and the Cook dinner more than 25 years ago. It was hosted by the late Elisabeth Rozin, a food writer and educator, who planned a marvelous international menu: Martinis laced with saffron, African peanut chicken soup, Indonesian cucumber salad, cassoulet and vanilla ice cream with chili ginger sauce.
Although I have made repeat visits to Serrano, I never reviewed it. The original owners sold the restaurant. The kitchen is now under the guidance of executive chef Gina Rodriguez.
Located in Old City on Second Street’s restaurant row, Serrano is a long, narrow space with original brick walls, soft lighting, a friendly bar with a top bartender and a menu that reflects Rodriguez’s culinary imprint. It’s a mix of Asian, American and Mexican fare.
I sipped the finest Rob Roy ($12) to date while Edward went local with a Bluecoat martini ($10.75) Cocktail prices were about as modest as one can get.
Dinner began with corn fritters ($5) and crispy pork wonton ($10). The fritters were round, golf-ball size fried dough with a hint of ground corn sitting in a small bowl, with a dollop of honey on the bottom. They arrived cold, so a fresh order was prepared. The second dish was OK, but I assume this was Rodriguez’s interpretation of fritters.
The wonton appetizer, which was cold and disappointing, consisted of three small, fluted bland pastry shells with tiny bits of pork that were so salty I could not eat it.
We had a few questions about the entrees on offer, and I had to pull out my portable flashlight to read the menu. The meatloaf didn’t sound particularly appetizing to us because of the piled on mashed potatoes and other ingredients, but we were assured they would arrive in separate compartments.
Rodriguez’s meatloaf ($19.50) was prepared with chopped bacon that imparted a tasty addition to ground beef. It had a terrific texture, like pâté, which I liked, but it could have been hotter. The garlic mashed potatoes were creamy, and the addition of garlic was a fine idea. Alas, they could have been hotter as well. Shoestring fried onions were yummy and crisp, free of grease and seasoned just right. A side dish of hot baby carrots contained the right bit of crunch.
Our waiter told us the scallop dish ($25) was the chef’s signature creation, and after a detailed explanation, I decided to try it.
First, I do not like food served in a large, shallow bowl unless it is soup or some type of pasta. I assumed large, dry scallops would appear in the bowl, but I received about four small-sized ones. The were seared nicely but could have been hotter. The scallops were placed around a mix of mushrooms, fingerling potatoes and sausage slices. They vegetables and sausages were chunky, and I thought had a hash been prepared, it would have imparted a better flavor and texture to the final dish. All the ingredients sat in a pool of chili oil, which added a little kick.
Edward asked the bartender to recommend a glass of beer. A Harpoon’s Winter Warmer ($6) was the perfect choice for the meatloaf, and I sipped a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ($9).
Service was a bit spotty. We waited about 30 minutes for our appetizers, but it became better as the rhythm for our dinner developed.
Although drink prices were very modest, I thought the price of entrees at Serrano’s was a bit too high. The food lacked the vibrancy I remembered, but every chef brings his or her interpretation and ideas to the bill of fare.
One-and-a-half tips of the toque to Serrano’s.
20 S. Second St.
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