Spice Route

Serpentine's surprising way with neighborhood dining

Roast chicken? Check. Grilled sardines? Check. Black cumin seeds and green coriander berries?

Suddenly, this is not your standard neighborhood restaurant menu.

At Serpentine, chef Deepak Kaul has assembled a collection of dishes that, at first glance, resembles Bay Area casual-dining fixtures. But his singular way with spices takes them on a whirlwind voyage.

The ideal time to experience Kaul's prowess is at dinner. He pan-sears chicken livers ($8), cloaking them with the fire and bitterness of Thai chiles and fenugreek. He grills Monterey Bay sardines ($8.50) and serves them with a salad of green tomatoes that have been marinated in maple syrup, vinegar and fresh coriander seeds from Mariquita Farm.

Kaul, whose family is from Kashmir, considers his food unabashedly American. His roast chicken ($19.50) proves it: The subtle musk of black cumin seeds in the accompanying beet salad tastes like it belongs alongside the prototypical bird.

Even fried squid ($8.50) is treated to a thoughtful lift. It's coated with chickpea flour and spiced with cayenne, turmeric and the lively whir of garam masala (click here to download the recipe).

And you thought neighborhood dining was predictable.

Serpentine, 2495 3rd St. (at 22nd St.); 415-252-2000 or

Serpentine 2495 Third St. San Francisco CA 94107 415-252-2000

Around the Web

Get the Tasting Table newsletter for adventurous eaters everywhere