Trouble With Toast

Sherpas, serpents, and first impressions of Serpas | February 10, 2009

Though it didn’t make it into last week’s article, John Kessler and I talked a lot in our interview about restaurant reviews and how blogging has changed the business.  We talked about how many times you should visit a restaurant before you review it, and how the fair answer was probably more times than the average food blogger could afford.  We talked about the guilt I often feel when I write a less-than-glowing review after one experience, or after the restaurant has only been open for a short time.  So, when Jason and I visited Serpas on Saturday night (which had only been open for about two weeks at the time), I tried to keep that conversation in mind and think of our first meal as merely an introduction.

(For those of you not familiar with the Atlanta scene, Serpas is the name of the chef/owner, who has been a fixture in the local culinary community for quite some time.  Most recently, he was the executive chef at TWO urban licks, a restaurant that we have enjoyed on numerous occasions.  I certainly respect Chef Serpas’ decision in terms of the name of the restaurant, but Jason kept calling it “Sherpas” and I couldn’t stop thinking “serpent.”  We’ll have to make sure we practice pronunciation before we return.)

We arrived early for our 8 PM reservation in order to grab a drink at the bar.  I absolutely adore the bar space–there are plenty of stools, and it’s set up on one side of the restaurant so the servers don’t have to walk through a mosh pit of customers in order to deliver food and drinks.  As a former waitress, I can definitely appreciate a flow of movement that allows guests and staff alike to have a more comfortable experience.  The bartendress was very sweet, and she conversed with us as we drank our Abita Amber and Sweetwater 420 drafts (I was a little bummed that there were only four taps, and one of them was out).  Then there was a mix-up with another party, so two free drinks appeared before us–I’m not sure what they call the concoction, but it consisted of sweet tea vodka (!!!), peach schnapps, and not a whole lot else.  It was delicious, though you’d have to keep careful track of how many you were downing.

Once we got to our table, we decided to start with some appetizers.  Crispy duck rolls with chili syrup and five spice were meaty and full of flavor, though they were also fairly greasy and had a bit too much of the sauce.  Texas crab toast with chipotle aioli had great texture, but again the sauce was too much (and this time it was more obvious, as the sweet crabmeat just couldn’t hold up).  The presentation of both dishes was simple and elegant, though, and we agreed that the concepts and flavors were pretty solid.

We had a lot more appetizers that we wanted to try, so we decided to order two each instead of entrees.  Jason opted for the chopped Caesar onion ring tower, which sounded a lot more intriguing than it was.  This was my least favorite dish of the night, comprised of a stack of onion rings (which were actually pretty tasty on their own) with some chopped caesar salad in the middle.  It was just really heavy, and I’m not the biggest Caesar salad fan to start with, so the components didn’t come together well for me.  He also ordered the eggplant hushpuppies with blue cheese.  The hushpuppies themselves were absolutely delicious and perfectly cooked (I got a bite without any of the blue cheese, and it was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside), but again they were oversauced.  The blue cheese was more of a dressing than merely crumbles, and Jason felt like it really overpowered the rest of the flavors.

I opted for the flash fried oysters with pickled chiles and mirliton, and the dish was very successful.  The breading on the oysters was substantial but not heavy, and the end result wasn’t greasy at all.  The accompaniments brought out the briny flavor of the bivalves and really created an interesting, delicious dish.  I also ordered the shrimp and crab chowder, and it was probably the best thing we ate all night.  The texture was creamy but not oppressively so, and you could really taste each individual ingredient.  There were large portions of crabmeat and shrimp (the latter of which were just slightly overcooked), and with a little bit of additional salt and/or spice, it would have been perfection in a bowl.

We were too full for dessert, but there were definitely items that intrigued me.  Service was friendly and knowledgeable, and you can definitely have a nice night out for a reasonable sum (I think, including our drinks at the bar, we got out for about $100).  I found the beer prices to be pretty steep, but except for their reserve list, all bottles of wine are $25 and all glasses are $6.50–which I think is a great, affordable touch.

While Serpas didn’t give me a flawless first impression, it’s very early in its journey and I believe that it will continue to develop and improve.  It pleased me enough that I want to return, probably in a few months, to see how the restaurant is growing and learning from its inaugural days.  If what the bartendress said turns out to be true and they utilize the outdoor space in the warmer weather, I’m sure that Jason and the puppy and I will be frequent visitors.



  1. Reading about Serpas made me quite hungry. I think I would kill for one of those oysters right about now…

    Comment by Barbara — February 11, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  2. Haha, they were very good–though I still have a soft spot for pure, unadultered, raw oysters (no cocktail sauce, no horseradish, just a little splash of lemon).

    Comment by bettyjoan — February 12, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  3. Sound tasty. Are you planning on going back?

    Comment by Tammy Linlous — February 13, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  4. Tammy, yes, we’ll certainly go back. We’ll probably wait a while and let the initial crowds/press cycle through, and then we’ll see how the chef and the staff have settled in.

    Comment by bettyjoan — February 13, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

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