Serpas Review (3 Knives)

Serpas Review (3 Knives)

It was illuminating to go to Serpas immediately after eating at Bacchanalia. Both offer excellent, local, organic foods with a strong focus on seasonality. But the ambiance and feeling couldn’t be any more different. Serpas is, much like Abattoir, a redone industrial space. But where Abattoir is a little cold and clinical at times, Serpas is cozy and the perfect stage for a casual dinner. Where Bacchanalia was impeccable in execution and elegant, yet daunting in its solemnity and hushed voices, Serpas practically invites you to kick your shoes off, drink too much wine and tell nasty jokes.

Then there’s the food. With a few exceptions, spot-on is the only apt description. The food was deeply satisfying. It was hearty, bold and rich. It displayed a high degree of craftsmanship without pandering to  pretension. This is the very definition of “smart casual.”

This is where the magic happens!


We went as a five-top, the perfect number for a massive blind tasting and see what the kitchen really had to offer. The restaurant obliged and out came more food than could fit on the table.

The appetizers arrived: eggplant hush puppies with blue cheese and red gravy, warm spinach salad, tuna tartar with green apple and house-made chips, crispy duck rolls with chili syrup and five-spice, and flash-fried oysters. To be fair, I have a weakness for duck. That being said, the duck rolls were obscenely good: pleasantly spicy, perfectly seasoned and beautifully textured.

Its casualness belies culinary greatness.
Kick your feet up, it’s cool.

We were one and a half bottles of Earthquake Petit Syrah into the evening and a cadre of entrées came out. They overwhelmed our table: a tomahawk-style veal chop with corn, orzo, mushrooms planted itself before us. A red snapper dish so good it made me forget that cooked fish isn’t one of my favorites landed, followed by  a pork shoulder with grits, collard greens and a fresh apple salad that made me rethink my cynicism towards “New South Cuisine”. But they weren’t done. Not by a long shot.

Scallops with spaghetti squash and panang curry arrived, trout with lemon thyme butter, and quickly thereafter, a double-patti hamburger with fries. It was time to dig in.

Everything was delicious and representative of the best dining experiences to be had in Altanta. Moreover, and I hate to admit it, the price point made me reconsider the price-to-quality ratio at Bacchanalia. The pork shoulder dominated the attention span of most of us. Fork-tender, rustic in its inception and deeply reminiscent of the perfect home-cooked meal, it was a hit.

The second bottle of Earthquake Petit Syrah was done and we moved over to a nice Tempranillo. We all greedily attacked the food; eyes rolled back into our heads and wild, almost sexual gesticulations abounded. Then we had the burger.

The double-patti burger was OK. If I may nitpick once again, it was completely unnecessary and de-valued the meal. A hamburger presented at a fine dining establishment should be ethereal in character to warrant its welcome. This was good, but it was far from ethereal. And although I am repeating myself, the fries were not properly cooked. Perfectly cooked french fries are a thing of beauty–timeless and delicious confections of the ultimate starch. These were not.

Pork Shoulder, Apple Salad, Grist, Collard Greens

The burger was properly cooked if less-than-perfectly seared. A burger’s meat is all about texture and a medium-rare burger must be masterfully seared. This one wasn’t, and it yielded a misstep in texture. The fries felt dense and less-than-crispy. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that they were not properly blanched and rested, but simply cut and fried. I may be wrong, I wasn’t in the kitchen, but the tell-tale signs were there.

This is still nit-picking, but the plating erred on the side of rustic. This is one of the differentiating qualities between Serpas and more expensive establishments. Whereas the plating and the sauces at Bacchanalia were neurotic in their precision, Serpas is homey. Dishes seem largely self-saucing and the focus is on the flavor profile and not the architectural sensibilities of the dish.

Dessert drew near and we opted for a single dish to share: white chocolate cranberry bread pudding with a cinnamon whipped cream. I tend to be a tough critic when it comes to dessert. Dessert is usually an afterthought and rarely prepared in-house. I don’t know where the bread pudding came from but it was a worthy peer to the savory dishes that came before it. Suffice it to say that two minutes after its debut,  there was none left.

Still, minor quibbles aside, we ate like sailors on shore leave. The food at Serpas re-calibrated my expectations of casual dining in Atlanta. I am actually saddened that it took me this long to visit the restaurant. This is simply great food.

Ricarda Rutter

*Ricarda Rutter is a Ten News reporter. She’s an award-winning and Walkley nominated journalist. She has worked at the SBS, ABC, and Triple R.Rutter is a mother and a wife.