- 13963 S. Virginia St., Reno, NV, 89511
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday
- Official Web Site:
Images of chiles — red or green, singly or in shining bunches — spike the walls of Serrano's Mexican Restaurant & Cantina in the Summit. Would that I could pluck a few to add heat and character to the timid salsa before me.
I dredge another chip — no go. The salsa is so watery, it spills yet again from a thick homemade chip into my cupped hand below. I've learned my lesson after spattering the table on the first few tries.
Surges of cilantro bring a bit of redemption, but even allowing for preference and differences in style, this salsa is disappointing.
Salsa often tells the tale of a Mexican restaurant, and that's true with Serrano's, but not in the way you might think. The food improves, but like the salsa itself, the restaurant seems hesitant, perhaps unsure of what it wants to be.
Part of that derives from Summit's location and architecture.
Independent restaurants have performed unevenly at the far south Reno center (even as chain Italian and pub grub seem to thrive).
Serrano's is fronted with those mirrored windows that make restaurants seem closed even when they're open.
And though the owners have done what they could with art, earth tones and a tequila and margarita cantina connected by an archway, the soaring industrial ceilings make it challenging for Serrano's, in its feel, to reflect the nurturing vibrancy of Mexican cooking itself.
Things seem a bit dim inside, even gloomy (which is fine as a respite from the summer sun, but what of winter?).
I can't help but wonder if this is the right spot for an independent restaurant. Are Summit traffic and nearby neighborhoods sufficient to support it?
The menu has undergone several revisions since Serrano's opened this past winter. The kitchen seems to have settled on a mix of Mex-American, Tex-Mex and dishes Mexicans would recognize as their own (here, likely family recipes).
A Mexican pizza is a good idea, the version at Serrano's built from a crisp tortilla lined with creamy cheese and sagging with chicken, mild and spicy green chiles, tomatoes and olives and a Mexican melting cheese.
The generously applied toppings are almost too much for the single tortilla to handle — eat quickly before things get a mite soggy.
A shrimp ceviche tostada, on the other hand, sings with just enough lemon juice, plus a spray of creamy avocado.
During one afternoon visit, the waiter so often asks if we like these starters, I begin to wonder if he knows something we don't.
But concerned service never comes amiss. And the pizza is light yet satisfying (though needing a sturdier crust), the ceviche bright and fresh.
In what seems a union of fajitas and nacho toppings, a lava rock molcajete is filled with steak, chicken, chorizo, prawns and grilled vegetables; red sauce sits up top. Two or three diners can easily share.
If you're a fan of unadorned chiles rellenos, Serrano's seafood rellenos might convert you.
The kitchen stuffs poblano chiles with cheese, shrimp, even a little corn. The rellenos arrive already split and draped with a chipotle sauce thickened with crema.
The dish reminds me of a Mexican Newburg. And what the sauce cloaks of the poblano's mild flavor, you gain, I think, in richness and chipotle's gentle smokiness.
The dusky mole that coats two chicken enchiladas hits the mark, its deep chocolate flavor and spices fully integrated, its texture neither sludgy nor too thin. If the kitchen makes mole this good, how to explain the salsa?
Serrano's has potential, but the Summit's location means that independent restaurants there have to offer destination dining almost from the start. I wish I could move Serrano's downtown to see what might more leisurely develop.