By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Oct. 24, 2013

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Old City-based Serrano’s, which is open Wednesdays through Sundays, features dishes with American, Mexican and Asian influences.

Photo by Kathryn Poole

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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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. Marty Medals said... on Oct 25, 2013 at 11:40AM

“Rob a large shallow bowl would be the best way to serve this reviewer.

With over 3,000 places to eat in the Phila area why waste one of only 50 review in a year on this place?”

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2. Anonymous said... on Oct 25, 2013 at 08:08PM

“Marty, she actually drank that Rob Roy from her favorite container, a ramekin! ROFLMAO. How many people here know what a ramekin is? How many people care?”

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3. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2013 at 11:14AM

“Is this restaurant called Serrano or Serrano's?
This reviewer is sad and irrelevant.
Why would you insist on having your food compartmentalized. Are you 4 years old, or are you so decrepit your dentures can't cope?
Why do you need to carry a flashlight?”

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4. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2013 at 04:31PM

“good point!”

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5. Anonymous said... on Oct 28, 2013 at 04:33PM


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6. MS said... on Oct 29, 2013 at 08:52AM

“1) I agree about the compartment food deal.
2) The bowl thing is strange.
3) So many negative comments why 1.5 toques? Some restaurants have more issues (problems) and receive a high rating and with some restaurants it's the opposite.
4) People have written about the SPR's target geographic area as well as the readers. I just think that PSN has pompous reviews written in a flowery style - just my opnion. However I wish she would cut to the chase and knock off the New York Times restaurant review style.”

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7. Bloop said... on Oct 29, 2013 at 03:33PM

“I honestly only read PSN's restaurant reviews just to enjoy the comments posted! She is irrelevant and her reviews really hold no weight, nor do they sway anyone I know from eating at any particular establishment.”

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8. Edward said... on Oct 29, 2013 at 04:28PM

“Correction. The review says "Edward went local with a Bluecoat martini." That should read: "Edward went LOCO with a Bluecoat martini." Har har! Howz about another round barkeep... (hic)

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9. Ang said... on Oct 30, 2013 at 10:34AM

“I agree with Bloop, most of the time I'm looking at the comments too, especially when I see that the review is inevitably not one I am interested in at all.”

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10. Alan K said... on Oct 30, 2013 at 03:30PM

“I like the comments and I always read the reviews - even if not interested in the restaurant.

What about more mainstream places. Also what's the with spending $12/drink? I don't think most people spend so much for a drink.

Problem there?”

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11. 50 shakes said... on Nov 6, 2013 at 04:24PM

“Edward gripped me firmly me and took me from behind. The smell of cheap gin on the back of my neck drove me insane with base deserve.
He used his Harpoon Winter Warmer expertly and we both collapsed in a heap of perfectly seared scallops.
"Oh, Eddie...!"”

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12. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 06:46PM

“What a Phony!

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13. Anonymous said... on Nov 22, 2013 at 06:46PM

“What a Phony!


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