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A Hearty Dining Foothold in Dogpatch
by Chrissy Loader on Dec 05, 2008
At first glance, Serpentine has everything going for it; it's set in an interesting, up-and-coming location in Dogpatch, it has trusty references (they’re owned by the folks who brought SF the Slow Club), and the setting is lovely, melding industrial-chic with warm, natural elements. Since its spring opening, Serpentine has also received a warm buzz, so we were more than prepared to be equally impressed by the food.
But each of our visits offered a somewhat contradictory experience. For instance, on our first visit last spring, we tried the Crispy Oysters and Asparagus appetizer ($11), somehow imagining the dish would be made of fried oysters while the asparagus would be spared the breading (and frying). Not so. Instead, the dish was reminiscent of something you’d find at a sports bar: everything fried to within an inch of its life and served with a heavy and mayonnaise-based dipping sauce.
But the menu veered in other directions as well. For instance, we were on a marrow binge at the time, trying our fourth marrow in the City, so when we saw Serpentine’s Buffalo Bone Marrow ($11) on the menu, our interest was immediately piqued. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, the marrow was, well, rather gamey -- or at least gamier than expected (or gamier than any of the other more garlic-flavored or French-inspired versions we’d tried at other City establishments). Nevertheless, one stand-out on the appetizer menu was a seasonal Savory Bread Pudding ($9). Made with fennel, onion and Swiss cheese; a closer cousin to a rich mac ‘n cheese than anything you’d have for dessert, we found that if Serpentine had a signature dish, clearly this was it.
For our entrees, we ordered the Mary's Chicken Leg Al Mattone ($19) and Braised Marin Sun Farms Beef Short Ribs ($24). The chicken was tasty enough, and served with roasted yellow potatoes and a demi-glace, though it wasn’t necessarily a stand-out. By contrast, the ribs were a disappointment -- slightly sweet and with a texture similar to that of a rib roast. Looking over the menu, and being pretty familiar with the Slow Club’s menu, we might have been happier trying out the Prather Ranch Hamburger ($13) with a Side of Fries ($5) -- we saw this at a nearby table and the burger looked enormous and juicy and thoroughly tempting.
We finished our meal with their Chocolate Cake ($8) and again we were disappointed, finding the cake itself dry and bland. Our only wish is that they might have included a bread pudding for this course as well.
By contrast, during our more recent visit to Serpentine -- when San Francisco was enjoying its brief flirtation with summer weather -- we enjoyed brunch over a few decadent breakfast cocktails, a Bellini and a mimosa made with a grapefruit juice instead of orange juice.
Brunch at Serpentine is a more recent offering and, even though it was noon, and considering this is a brunch town, we found the dining room surprisingly quiet; it actually gave us the perfect opportunity to take a better look at the setting itself, which was comfortable and warm during the day with tons of natural light streaming through the high windows making the space feel incredibly serene and inviting.
And here -- hallelujah! -- we once again found a breakfast-version of Serpentine’s Savory Bread Pudding, though this time with ham, Swiss cheese and sage and served with a green salad ($12). So smart of them!
And it seems that all those things that are breadish are where Serpentine excels, for we also sampled the Fried Egg Sandwich ($10) and the Caribbean White Shrimp Sandwich ($11). nd because we were trying to cut through some of the carbs, we threw in an order of their house Mixed Greens ($9). Considering these were a side-thought, we found this salad much better than expected -- generously portioned and garnished with thin slivers of Pippin apples and Fuyu persimmons with crunchy toasted hazelnuts and bits of goat cheese mixed in for seasonal flavor.
But back to our breadier dishes, the Fried Egg Sandwich was served on an enormous (and utterly decadent) biscuit with sliced avocado and arugula; it was also dressed with aioli and served with a side of crispy fried potatoes the size of a few dozen die. We all agreed, the combination of egg, avocado and aioli (and the incredible extra bit of something special to be found in the buttery biscuit) made this sandwich a stand-out.
Similarly, the shrimp sandwich was served on delicious bread -- a delectable soft yellow roll -- with a side of golden shoe-string fries. We found the entire sandwich truly fork and knife worthy (actually, the fork and knife became requirements after it began to fall apart in a yummy, saucy mess). The consensus was that the shrimp sandwich was the superior sandwich of the two sampled, but it was a fierce race.
Serpentine still seems to be searching for footing. But their brunches seemed more relaxed and comfortable -- like a well-worn blanket or your favorite coffee mug. So if you’re looking for a daylight meal in Dogpatch with plenty of hearty options, this is the time and the meal where Serpentine has fully hit its stride.
by Chrissy Loader on Dec 05, 2008