Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dish on Dining: Serpentine

A Home to Chowdown in Dogpatch
2495 Third St. (at 22nd), San Francisco
Dogpatch neighborhood
PH: 415.252.2000
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m., Mon.–Fri.; dinner: 6–10 p.m., Tues.–Sat.
Major credit cards, reservations accepted

You can spot a new wine bar and café across the street, but really, the restaurant Serpentine is out there on its own in the emerging, industrial neighborhood known as Dogpatch. If it weren’t for the new Muni T-Line, I probably wouldn’t even venture out in this area that also includes a sparkling new UCSF Mission Bay campus.

But the T-Line drops you off a block away from the restaurant, so I made the ride out to check out this sibling of the popular Slow Club. Joining me was my friend Laurie, who typically needs a dining locale with easy parking. She didn’t have any problems finding free street parking right outside Serpentine.

We made last-minute dinner reservations on a weeknight, so we were tucked away in a table in the corner of the bar. But it gave us a grand view of the bar and main dining area with its mix of high ceilings, brick walls, velvet drapes and wood accents. The warm setting sun of Dogpatch filled the room to create a cozy but sleek environment. As the evening went on, the restaurant bustled with the after-work crowd, their drinks twinkling amongst the candles.

Side note: The only odd thing, IMHO, about the layout of the restaurant is that the restrooms are almost right in the middle of the dining room. If you can imagine, across from the bar and next to some dining tables, there’s this tiny room that looks almost like a closet with velvet curtains in front. When you pull back the curtains, you find the entrance to the men’s room. Next to it is a couple of other dining tables and then there’s another closet-like room that’s the women’s restroom. The restrooms were clean and private, but it just seemed a bit odd that they were kind of out in the open. I’m just glad we weren’t seated at a table next to this draped commode.

Serpentine’s dinner menu is a nice mix of comfort dishes and unusual choices—from a Prather Ranch hamburger to Buffalo bone marrow. The starter plates or appetizers seem to outnumber the entrée selection. The entrées (the most expensive was $24.50) included Alaskan cod, roast chicken, flatiron steak and Liberty duck breast. There were too many choices among the small plates, so Laurie and I decided to order a few of them to share.

We started with the Warm White Shrimp Salad ($11.50) made with little gem lettuce, Castroville artichokes, crispy potato cubes and lemon aioli. Who knew a salad could be so comforting? The warm shrimp and potatoes blended nicely with the crunch of the little gems coated with the refreshing lemon aioli. Now and then you’ll find a piece of grilled artichokes to add to your pleasure, but really it was the crispy potato cubes that got me excited about this dish. They were so much better than croutons.

Our server was especially friendly and answered our questions thoroughly and with much honest enthusiasm. It was his sincere appreciation of the bone marrow dish that convinced us both to give it a try even though neither of us had ever eaten bone marrow.

The Buffalo Bone Marrow ($11.50) came with a kumquat and parsley salad and some grey salt for sprinkling and grilled levain bread slices to eat. Our server gave us two utensils to eat this dish: a small fork-like utensil to dig the marrow out of the bone and a tiny knife to spread it on our grilled bread.

The bone marrow was slow cooked until it softened into a gel. I think the idea is to make it almost like butter. The bones itself were still pretty warm, so you have to be careful touching it when digging out the marrow. Laurie said the marrow imparted a real beefy flavor and I felt it was interesting but not as smooth as I imagined. It felt like eating slowly braised tendons. The fresh kumquat slices provided a nice acidity to cut into the heaviness of the marrow, but Laurie and I didn’t really love the marrow. At least we’ve now checked off bone marrow from our culinary list of things to try.

Next came the Hand Cut Egg Noodles ($14.50) served with black trumpet mushrooms, fava beans and grana padano cheese topped with a poached egg. The combination of the creaminess from the egg after we broke into it and the grana padano cheese was heavenly. The dish was a little more salted for my taste, but I’m told traditional Italian pasta is generally heavier on the salt. Still, the freshness of the pasta and the combination of the ingredients made this a wonderful comfort dish.

Our last dish was the Lamb Riblettes ($12.50), which are like baby-sized ribs (not to be confused with baby back ribs). Riblettes are supposedly the end cut of the lamb ribs, so they’re smaller and include some bones that are so thin that I could actually bite into them for a nice crunch. The tender lamb riblettes were served on top of a fava bean puree and served with French feta cheese. It was covered with a pile of parsley (which is why you don’t really get a good view of the riblettes in the photo).

The riblettes were a slow-cooked marvel. The meat was tender, but not necessarily falling-off-the-bone messy. And the sauce was a rich combination of earthiness and barbeque. I couldn’t decide which. But it was enjoyable.

We ended the evening with the Earl Grey Pot de Crème with Bergamot Granita, which was a new item on Serpentine’s dessert menu. Some of you know I’m a big tea lover, and Earl Grey is the king of teas in my eyes, so this was a home run either way. I mean, how can you go wrong with a creamy pudding infused with the citrus-floral essence of Earl Grey? The bergamot granita was an unusual touch. They looked like sugar cubes on top of the pot de crème but were little bursts of icy bergamot flavors to add to the whole Earl Grey experience.

Chef Chris Kronner, who still oversees the kitchen at Slow Club, has created a seasonal menu that draws on his strengths of using strong flavors and interesting ingredients to provide comforting dishes that will satisfy you without stuffing you. Serpentine may be out there on its own in the city’s Dogpatch, but it’s definitely a place you should venture out and try.

Single guy rating: 4 stars (Delicious chow)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Serpentine on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

foodhoe said...

hmmm, I still haven't eaten here! the menu spounds very interesting.