I got a sense of déjà vu walking into Sera Dining & Wine, the new tapas restaurant in the Park Hill space formerly occupied by Sapristi!, where both Sera owner John Marsh and chef Brandon Hudson worked for years before the beloved Mediterranean restaurant closed last year. The place looks almost the same: Turning right from the entrance, the bar is on your left with a row of tables on the right. Beyond the bar, the dining room opens up.
It’s not that tapas are foreign to Fort Worth, but tapas done authentically and well may be new. Early in his career, Hudson spent time in Spain, and his devotion to traditional ingredients and preparation is admirable –– even if some of the dishes are a little weird.
That was the case with the pig ear frites. A traditional Spanish snack, the orejas were fried in a batter that was a cross between tempura and funnel cake. The result? Slightly chewy meets slightly sweet, with a savory tarragon-infused dipping sauce. By the time the contents of the basket were gone, the dish seemed perfectly normal.
Also traditional and excellent were the croquetas de bacalao: salted codfish rolled into balls, breaded, and lightly fried. The barely seasoned, crunchy batter allowed the clean taste of the fish to come through.
The Moroccan garbanzo bean stew was a lovely melding of sweet and spicy sauce with lamb, greens, smoked tomatoes, and chickpeas. Sometimes Moroccan stew can be overly sweet, but that was not the case here. And the lamb was fall-apart tender and not gamey-tasting.
The best tapas choice was the tortilla Española, a Spanish omelet with fried potato and caramelized onion. Described by our server as “the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich of Spain” –– it’s what Spanish parents make for their children for snacks and lunches –– the omelet was well-seasoned, gooey, and slightly chunky, thanks to the diced potatoes.
The only slight disappointment with the small plates was the patatas bravas: twice-fried potatoes covered with salsa brava and aioli. The spuds were dry, and the hot salsa just didn’t help.
Since my table of three was still a little hungry, we also tried the pheasant breast (basically the top half of the pheasant) from the entrées menu. The roasted bird came out atop of a mound of delicately chopped root veggies mixed with farro, a grain in the wheat family that looks like rice but tasted like Grape-Nuts cereal. The dish was lovingly prepared and plenty tasty.
The best part of a tapas restaurant is that if you’ve done it right, you should have room for dessert. Desserts aren’t listed on Sera’s menu, but the server’s excellent descriptions tempted us into trying both the persimmon apple tart and the Nutella chocolate cake. The cake was a dense, rich chocolate confection, more like a creamy torte in texture. It had the barest trace of hazelnut flavor, and there was none left on the plate when we were done.
Persimmon is more of an Asian ingredient, but it sounded unusual enough to try –– after all, the server had sold me on the orejas. The tart’s crust was salty, not the sweet pastry often used for pie. The juxtaposition of sweet apples and persimmons, salty pastry, and a dollop of savory goat cheese on top was heavenly.
Once a month, Hudson does Sunday Suppers, when diners might luck into finding a big bowl of paella on the menu.
Sera Dining & Wine
2418 Forest Park Blvd, FW. 817-927-7372. 5:30-9:30pm Tue-Sat. Closed Sun-Mon. All major credit cards accepted.
Patatas bravas …………….. $ 6
Pig ear frites ………………… $ 7
Croquetas de bacalao …… $ 6
Tortilla Española ……………. $ 6
Moroccan garbanzo stew $ 9
Pheasant breast …………… $28
Apple persimmon tart …….. $ 6
Chocolate Nutella cake ….. $ 6