after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Philly’s not-so-secret weapon’s secret

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t says: So yea, Serpico has been getting a crap-ton of press lately – be it the pedigree of of the chef and his menu, the new digs, novelty of a grated foie dessert, whatever.  So, with some reservation, I made a reservation this past week, as it was a triple-celebration:
1) g & t anniversary
2) my birthday
3) after I had just finished the final installment of the national medical board licensing exam
So … basically … it was time to party …  To illustrate how important the confluence of these three big momentous occasions was, I had originally made a reservation at Vetri (i.e. that makes the combination of the above three occasions about equal to one celebration of g’s birthday … or at least one celebration on one weekend of g’s birthday … g’s birthday lasts a whole month …).  But in the end, I cancelled because I wanted something a little more unique (because 2 of the 3 things were more me-cenric, I got to call the shots).

So … did Serpico live up to the expectations?

Hell yea it did …

So, first, this review has no pictures.  g and I had ringside seats … meaning that when you’re that close to the executive chef, you feel less inclined to disrespect by taking pictures of every dish.  Sorry guys – no eye candy this time.  But what I can say about the food is that it was all superbly done.  We started with the scallop crudo which was so delicious that I asked myself “gee – how come more people aren’t serving raw scallop?”  And then I realized that our other favorite Philly restaurant, Bibou, does … so Serpico’s in good company – ha!  It was a delicious combination of buttermilk and poppy seeds and a green chili oil and a tiny sliver of chive.  As g and I ate, we were impressed with the flavor combination – it was a perfect balance that I couldn’t get enough of (truly, we were sad when the dish was done).

Next up, we did a duo of pasta.  The hand-torn pasta with the Chinese sausage, chicken skin, snail, cheese, was put in front of me first.  It was this peculiar combination of pasta carbonara meats snail and a flair for the Asian.  I loved it – I could totally come home and eat me some of that at the end of a rough day, where the intention is to eat myself into a food coma while being hugged by that cheesy-salty flavor.  Yummers.  The corn ravioli was the most surprising dish – I had not expected the dishe’s richness given the description including corn, onions, and lime.  It was actually also very smokey, probably due to the chorizo – so much so that it had this paprika-y flavor that was so strong that g was reminded of eating paprikash when we were in Budapest … right up until the sweet sweet corn hit you.  I remarked that “really, these two flavors [the corn and the smoke] need eachother – there’s no other two that can be put together better”.  Nice job, chef.

We finished up with the wagyu “chuck flap” (i.e. kinda-lika-short-rib).  This was the most traditional of the dishes we had, with two pieces of meat (they was nicely done – not the absolute-most-tender braised beef I’ve ever had, but I don’t think they wanted to go that way – they wanted you to approach it more like cutting into a steak that a fall-apart-at-the-slightest-touch hunk), some perfect broccolini, and “potato” that were perfect little globes of hashed brown.  And these were all put together with a sauce that was one-part ?mustard?, one-part ?bbq sauce?, and one-part sweet fruit (?Asian pear?).  As you can see, there lots of question marks because in actuality I have no idea what the sauce was, but the sweet was an addictive component that nicely balanced out the rest of the dish.

The rocky road dessert was a bit unremarkable (so go for something more interesting when you go).  In its most simple form, it was chocolate ice cream, marshmallow, and some candied nuts.  It wasn’t bad, but let’s just say that Talula’s Garden’s chocolate desserts could wreck this one any day of the week … BUT, that brings up an interesting comparison: The Garden vs. Serpico – who’d win that rumble?  We decided that Serpico’s food was indeed “fussier” than Talula’s Garden, but it paid off with more interesting flavor combinations.  That said, I don’t think there was any one point where we wanted to bathe in any one dish, rather, with each dish, we’d be surprised/impressed and then excited to see what was next – nothing in particular was so great that we’d absolutely have to have it again next time … but don’t get us wrong – we still wanna go back asap!

So what is the secret to this not-so-secret weapon?  Check it out (get ready to squint!):


our wine selection for the evening: TOR napa valley 2010 and Alexana Riesling 2012 … Now those who know us also know that our body size and our wallet limits our drinking-out ability – so did g and I really splurge on two bottles of wine off the wine list in one meal?  Nope.  And if you scrutinize the drink menu when you arrive, you’ll notice that neither of these bottles are listed.  How so?  Did we have the hook-ups?  Were these from the private cellar of the sommelier?  Nope and nope.  You see, the “secret” is that Serpico doesn’t charge corkage.  I’ll write that again so you know it wasn’t a typo: Serpico doesn’t charge corkage.  Now when I made the reservation, I asked repeatedly to ensure that this was true (e.g. “So, when you say ‘no corkage’ is that like when restaurants say ‘no corkage’ but actually mean ‘you can’t bring your wine here’ … or do you mean like ‘yea we have  a liquor license, but you can BYOB’?”)  So at least for now, somehow, the snowball has made it out of hell, Sisyphus finally got that frickin’ boulder up the frickin’ hill, the Pope stopped wearing the funny hat, and the bear did not crap in the woods: a Starr restaurant is not charging corkage so you can BYOB!! You want proof?


so … as you can see, there was no corkage fee, and I don’t think it was because g and I had an extra special consideration.  For example, at no point did someone say, “oh it’s your anniversary celebration, so your corkage is on us” or “you guys are just too cute, so your corkage is on us” – they just kept saying “we have no corkage fee” (but they never said “we’re BYOB”).  In any case, g and I were “in” to Serpico originally because of the food, but just so long as this no-corkage thing holds out, we will be back many-a-time for sure (of course, then we give the server a super-large tip to compensate because we feel bad … but it’s still cheaper than corkage x2 for the two bottles we brought!).  Also, for $81 of food, g and I were stuffed – that’s pretty cheap if we’re going to start drawing comparisons to Talula’s Garden!  (But don’t worry, Garden – you know you’ll always be the one we go back to …)

In summary: go to Serpico for the interesting flavor combinations, the friendly staff, and the spectacle Chef Serpico doing what he does (he was great to watch – he was teaching some new guy the ropes while we were there).  Stay for the BYO.  And finally, debate the “beauty” of “Philadelphia’s most beautiful restaurant” (that was such a stupid title/focus for a post), but instead agree that the chalk drawings by children on one of the walls near the open kitchen are adorable (and secretly wonder if the restaurant staff, themselves, drew it …).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

29 June 2013 at 4:26pm

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