By Art Huckabee
Every business can have a bad day and restaurants are no exception. Such was the case on a recent Sunday night visit to Serpas at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward.
When we arrived, there were only three or four occupied tables with a few additional diners at the bar. Our party of four was seated at the end of a long banquet against a wall that afforded a view of the entire restaurant and kitchen. The restaurant sports an industrial chic look.
Serpas offers its share of craft cocktails. The Captain Jack Sparrow and the Ticket to Old Fourth Ward were good but on the smallish side. The bar even prepared a summertime favorite, the Church Lady — a mix of gin, elderflower liqueur, grapefruit and cucumber. The wine list offers something for everyone. When the Sauvignon Blanc was not to the taste of one of our diners, the waiter promptly offered two different tastings for her to sample before bringing a new glass… a nice touch.
The delicate eggplant hushpuppies were masked by the accompanying bleu cheese and red gravy. The tomato PBR steamed mussels were excellent, the highlight of the meal. The accompanying brick-sized piece of focaccia was crumbly and just got in the way.
Three in our party ordered the Sunday Supper, a prix fixe menu consisting of a house salad, a choice of entrée and a dessert. The fourth person at our table ordered the hangar steak.
Our salads came as quickly as had our appetizers. The house salad is an assemblage of candied pecans, goat cheese and greens tossed in a light blistered grape vinaigrette. We also ordered some made-to-order Brioche dinner rolls that were good.
Then we began to wait, which was exacerbated by our view of the kitchen’s pass and some of our dishes waiting under a heat lamp. After 30 minutes, our only contact with our server was the silent and awkward delivery of a small plate of lemons, presumably for the soon to be arriving flounder.
I’d like to report that the food more than made up for the lapses in service but that was not the case. The beef short rib had been rendered for too short a time leaving much of the fat intact; it was chewy and a meager portion.
The pan roasted flounder had spent too much time at the pass. The once moist fish had dried out under the heat lamp hardened coating; so had the accompanying risotto.
The partially deboned, bacon wrapped, stuffed chicken chop had good flavor but was overly salted making it almost inedible. It too had lingered much too long at the pass.
The Sunday Supper sides were hit and miss. The cheese grits were creamy good. The collards were well seasoned but under-done with a much too toothy bite. The assortment of vegetables was spoiled by the raw potatoes.
The hangar steak was chewier than even this cut of meat should be. The baby yams, broccoli, mushrooms and chimichurri seemed odd accompaniments.
The waiter was well aware of the missteps. At one point uttering, “Just take it out of my tip.” He was clearly an employee who cared about his restaurant and was frustrated at our unraveling experience. He offered complimentary drinks or dessert as compensation.
We chose the dessert well aware that three of us had dessert included with our meals. The waiter pronounced that he was going to provide us with the restaurant’s best dessert, bread pudding. We assumed that meant that all of us were going to get the “best dessert.”
We were surprised when only one of us received the much touted bread pudding while the other three received the prix fixe menu beignets. The pudding was good, served with a rich bourbon brown sugar sauce and Chantilly cream. The beignets were unlike the light and airy version that is found in New Orleans.
Unsolicited, the restaurant did take 15 percent off of our bill.
By all accounts, Serpas is obviously better than this. Two in our party had previously enjoyed several meals here.
Serpas is located at 659 Auburn Ave. #501 in the Studioplex. For more information, visit serpasrestaurant.com. Art Huckabee is one of Yelp’s Elite Reviewers, as well as a pilot and food lover. Send feedback to TastingIntown@AtlantaINtownPaper.com.