dining report - Serrano
0ur last dinner was at Serrano. We’ve been there several times, because dinner there assures good, reserved seating for the shows upstairs at the Tin Angel. While the food was never mind-blowing, when combined with the reserved seating option it was tasty enough to make a return visit a no-brainer. This time we came w/ another local friend – she said she thought the place had new owners and it appears the menu has changed somewhat as well. We started off with a couple of the meze options. Our friend is not terribly adventurous so we had grape leaves and hummus and, just for me, the garlicky roast beets. Everything was OK but not great – the grape leaves had a freshly-made texture, but neither they nor the hummus were exactly bursting with flavor. I loved the beets but then, with garlic and beets it would be hard to go wrong in my book.
The place still looks great – I love the many lanterns and the bar, and the several unisex bathrooms work so sensibly it makes me wonder why more places don’t do that. When we were newly in love, my husband and I had fun writing notes to one another w/ the crayons provided at each table, but we try to avoid that sort of thing in front of friends for fear of making everyone lose their appetite.
I don’t remember anything about the service, which means it was fine, but lacking the personal style we often see in “big city” servers.
Our entrees were extremely disappointing. I ordered the squash gnocchi with pine nuts and amaretto sage cream. I love all of those things individually, but what I got was so incredibly sweet that none of us could manage more than a bite or two. We used to always get the seared ahi with wasabi cream there; the new version featured a lime coconut cream and was again simply far too sweet for our palates. Our friend had one of the hangar steaks and seemed happy enough. I am personally disinclined to go to a restaurant for the sort of thing I can cook at home in no time.
At the moment we are torn about returning. On the one hand, there are so many great places to eat in Philly, we hate to lose a night to mediocre food. On the other hand, our past experiences have been good and the Tin Angel seating is a big plus. We may try again – maybe have a couple of small plates early somewhere else, like Tria or Amada, and then a couple more here.
i don't know what gives at Serrano. The "new" owners (since January maybe?) are Old City personalities and they do know their business - but I agree, the food more than often misses the mark, so much so that I won't risk it either. Going for drinks , however, is always a treat, especially in the fall/winter with the fireplace etc.
Unfortunately, I think drinks alone won’t get us that coveted table at the Tin Angel and that has a real appeal. It’s so much nicer to be able to linger over tea or dessert rather than loitering in the hot, hot staircase with the hoi polloi! :)
It was a shame, though, especially when I think of the cool places we didn’t get to try on our short visit.