Monday, January 05, 2009

Back for Seconds: Serpentine

This is an occasional report on return visits to restaurants that I’ve already reviewed.

Bring on the Brunch Report
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.; brunch, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., Sat.–Sun.
Major credit cards, reservations accepted

Original visit: April 2008

During the holidays, it’s a time for getting together with old friends, and brunch seems to always be the ideal food service to gather around. Of course, being the food guy, I’m always feeling the pressure to recommend a fun but tasty option.

When my friend Sylvia was in town from New York, we met up with our other friends Denise and Roger (aka “the breeders,” although this time they came sans kids). I threw out a few options and we settled for Serpentine, a place that I’ve visited before for dinner but hadn’t tried out its brunch options (but had recently read about it at No Salad as a Meal).

The restaurant is out there pretty much on its own in the up-and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, not too far from the new campus of the UC-San Francisco Medical School. When I arrived, Sylvia, Denise and Roger had already seated themselves in a corner booth tucked away near the kitchen.

It wasn’t as crowded for brunch as I thought it might be, and I don’t know if that’s because it was the holidays or the location is too far out there for some people. But no matters; it gave us free reign over the open dining area with its tall concrete ceilings.

For brunch, the menu offered the typical fare of eggs, pancakes and crispy potatoes. Denise and Sylvia zeroed in on the Red Flannel Hash ($13.50), a dish that I recently discovered myself at another brunch spot. Sylvia recalled having red flannel hash (it gets its name from the beets mixed in the hash) in Seattle, so she was looking forward to trying Serpentine’s version.

I went for the Frittata ($10) and Roger went the lunch route, ordering the Chicken Salad Sandwich ($9.50).

The Red Flannel Hash came out with chunks of red beets and crispy potatoes and bits of Prather Ranch beef brisket. In the photo, you can barely see the red beets because they were eclipsed by the two poached eggs on top with horseradish crème fraiche.

While everything looked fresh and nicely cooked, Sylvia and Denise didn’t seem thrilled by the flavoring nor the rustic chunkiness of the ingredients. Roger threw in that the dish looked more like a “deconstructed red flannel hash” as opposed to one where the ingredients melded together in all their hashness. Sylvia says the red flannel hash she got in Seattle is still the best, in her opinion.

My frittata came out looking flatter than I expected, and I have to say it wasn’t very memorable. In fact, I can’t recall what was in it other than the eggs, caramelized onions and roasted red bell peppers. (The online menu mentioned Blue Lake beans, which I love but don’t recall eating in the frittata.) I knew I loved the crispy potatoes served on the side. I was afraid to find out whether they were deep-fried or baked under a salamander because it was so well done I didn’t want the thought of them being made in fat to stop me from eating them.

In fact, all of Serpentine’s fried foods seem to be done expertly, as Roger could attest to from his shoestring French fries that came with his chicken salad. The sandwich itself was served on a nicely toasted “torpedo” roll, but I could tell that it was a bit watery from the green apple chunks mixed in with the chicken meat.

The service was top notch and friendly, which you want for brunch. And we spent more time catching up with each other than talking about the food. I recently put together a list of my top 10 restaurants I visited in 2008 and Serpentine just made the cut. But if I had to throw in this brunch experience, I think it might have fallen off the list.

Don’t get me wrong: the food is expertly prepared. It just lacks flair during brunch that I’ve seen at nights.

Update experience (previous 4 stars): Knocking it down to 3.5 stars for its marginal brunch experience.

Serpentine on Urbanspoon


Passionate Eater said...

I agree, that red flannel hash doesn't look nor sound nearly as good as yours. I think they hid the hash behind those eggs because its looks couldn't hold a candle to yours! Well, even though Serpentine went down in the rankings, I loved reading about your repeat visit!

foodhoe said...

your fritata looks very flat indeed! that's too bad, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.