The Accidental Locavore wants to know — what happens when you mix a really good restaurant with a truly professional chef? You get a great place like Serevan. Besides making delicious food, Serge, the chef, makes everyone feel welcome. If it’s your first time, celebrating a special occasion, or you’re a regular, he goes out of his way, literally and figuratively to make you feel at home (only with better food). Even a large group on a rainy Saturday night, when the place is packed, is given a warm reception and a call is made to another restaurant to save a table. His generosity extends to sharing recipes and giving cooking tips. Without him, I’d still be dealing with yogurt sauces curdling; he taught me to beat in a few egg yolks and cook it gradually and I’ve been grateful ever since.
The food has a Middle Eastern bent to reflect Serge’s Armenian/Iranian heritage, but it’s not your traditional falafel and hummus (although the falafel and hummus are rather spectacular). The chicken bastilla is probably the most traditional dish he serves…it’s what chicken pot pie wished it could be! Serge sources as much of the menu items as he can locally (see below for some of his local sources), even arranging a very early morning sour cherry picking expedition. A question about basturma, an ingredient with the striped bass special, was answered with an education in the origins of food (and Serge).
If you’re a Facebook follower, you’ll get teased on an almost daily basis with pictures and descriptions of what he’s cooking up for that night’s specials. I’ve found that it’s often better just not to look, especially if you’re hungry. Or just to give in to temptation, pick up the phone and make a reservation.
When you get there, if he has stew on the menu, it’s a must-have. Whether it’s lamb or beef, sauced with yogurt or more recently, a reduction of eggplant and heirloom tomatoes with what looked like peas (boring) and turned out to be verjus (infant grapes, a tart and delicious surprise), it will amaze you. Other favorites, surprisingly, the BBQ ribs, the scallops with merguez, any fish special, and for my husband, the beet salad. Serge told the Accidental Locavore that the only reason I loathe beets is because I’ve never had them cooked properly. Duly skeptical, after making sure there was enough bread and wine to kill the taste if need be, I had a small bite. If I was ever going to be a fan of beets, this would be the dish that would do it. Bread and wine not touched (for that moment anyway).
If there is anything for the Locavore not to love, it might be the desserts. Since I’m not a fan of what my friend Leslie describes as “beige, toothless desserts”, and can’t eat nuts, most times the only option is a dense sticky chocolate apricot cake. But that’s ok, because usually there’s so much great food before that, there’s absolutely no room for a sweet.
Now I’m looking forward to the fall and the promise of cooking classes with Serge. Until that happens, I’ll continue to be teased with the specials he’s posting on Facebook and keep making something I do well… reservations.
The farms that Serge uses most often are:
Montgomery Place Orchards — for produce and fruits
Migliorelli Farms — for produce and fruits (they’re also at the Union Square Greenmarket)
Sol Flower Farms– for produce
Old Farm Nursery — for specialty herbs, flowers and produce
Quattros– for specialty meats, organic eggs (they’re also at the Union Square Greenmarket)
And a very big thank you to Serge for the beautiful photos!