I had 48 hours in Boston, and having never been, scouting out an unmissable restaurant was exceptionally high on my culinary totem pole. I had read about Neptune Oyster in a couple places, and then read Alinea‘s Grant Achatz & Chef Ming Tsai describe the buttermilk johnny cake with smoked trout tartare, honey butter, and caviar as “one of the best things [they’ve] ever had.” I was a woman on a mission. I would not leave Boston without eating Chef Michael Serpa‘s food.
Tucked down a quiet street in Little Italy, we enter a white washed space of tile, mirror, marble slabs, a weathered bar, and an “everybody knows your name” vibe coursing throughout. With a beautiful bottle of sancerre, a plethora of briny, tickle your tongue oysters, followed by course after course of maritime perfection (crudo plates, lobster rolls, chowders) this place is the shrine for those who want to worship all things pescatarean. Add to the fact that Chef Serpa & his team could be some of the friendliest in the industry (think big smiles and Boston charm), and they had me –hook, line, and sinker. See what I did there?
Now a friend, Chef Serpa not only offered up some of my favorite answers for The TIG’s Chef Talks, he also connected me with his friends in the industry to help support the site. A stand up guy who also happened to make one of my favorite meals to date…check please.
- What’s the staff meal your kitchen gets most excited about?
The service staff orders off the menu, which helps out with menu knowledge, plus unlimited oysters is always a good perk to a job. The back of the house staff is mostly Colombians, so they love when I order beef tounges, pig’s ears, pig’s feet, tripe, etc. etc. and make really delicious and extremely rich sancochos or stews.
- What is the one knife you can’t live without?
I’m not really a knife snob. A $500 knife that isn’t sharp is no better than a $25 knife that is. That said, I have a nice Suisin chefs knife I like, but typically use a cheap Forschner utility knife (about 5 inches) on the line. Also a sharp oyster knife is a must.
- What’s your naughty food indulgence?
Is Shake Shack naughty?
- What’s your mini bar go to?
Usually the $8 bottle of water to take a handful of advil to cure the ills of the night before. Mini Bars, desperate times call for desperate measures.
- If you could stage at any restaurant in your city, where would it be and why?
I’d like to stage at Menton. I know some of the people over there, and they do a really great job. Would be a good reminder of how bad I suck at cooking.
- After a long day at work you go home and…?
In the summer I have a glass of rose, maybe a cigar, and jump in the pool to cool off. In the winter I put on my adult full-boot pajamas, drink cheap bourbon straight from the bottle, climb under 6 blankets and cry myself to sleep. It was a rough winter in Boston.”
- If you weren’t working in a kitchen, what would you be doing?
I’d most likely be a journalist of some sorts. Preferably at Bon Appetit or GQ, eating my paychecks away at restaurants.
- Drink of choice?
Negroni. Always stirred and always equal parts.
- One cookbook you can’t live without/most referenced?
I pretty much just look at the pictures and skip over recipes, but really like books that have a great story too. EMP, JoeBeef, Momofuku, Le Pigeon, The Frankies Spuntino… That counts as one right?
- What’s the most overrated ingredient?
- Describe your cooking in one word: