Chef Michael Serpa uses the phrase “wildly simple” a lot when describing the menu — and its Spanish and Portuguese inspiration — for his new restaurant Atlántico, opening in Boston’s South End October 15. The seafood-focused tapas restaurant honors the pared-down ethos of the cuisines of the Iberian Peninsula: Good sourcing, freshness, few ingredients.
“We were at a place in [southern Spanish city] Jerez,” recalls Serpa, “drinking sherry at a nice seafood restaurant, and all the dishes were wildly simple. A plate of prawns — just prawns. A plate of anchovies — just anchovies. Just razor clams.”
It’s a style not as prevalent locally; “people tend to like more stuff with their food.” But at Atlántico, Serpa and his team are trying to keep things “restrained” and let the ingredients shine.
“I really wanted to focus on seafood,” says Serpa, who opened the seafood-centric Select Oyster Bar in 2015 after a long tenure at Neptune Oyster. (He later opened the Parisian bistro-inspired Grand Tour, too, which is currently on hiatus, as the limitations of its space don’t mesh well with coronavirus restrictions.) “There aren’t really seafood-focused tapas places in the city, so we saw that avenue and said, ‘Hey, we already like to cook seafood, and we’re pretty good at it.’”
Find the full opening menu below, but first, here’s a closer look at several of the dishes.
Crudo de atun
Atlántico’s menu begins with a raw bar selection, including several crudos, oysters, and such. The tuna crudo pictured here features yellowfin, which also plays a starring role in a larger dish on the menu, where it is grilled and served with saffron aioli. In the crudo, the yellowfin is sliced and served with lemon, sea salt, olive oil, and lightly spicy Spanish guindilla peppers. Shaved celery adds “a little freshness and crunch,” says Serpa.
“My favorite thing on the menu,” says Serpa. It’s just “really good” boquerones — anchovies from Cantabria in northern Spain; “the flavor’s amazing on them.” They’re served with olive oil and Manzanilla olives. “It’s something really nice to have with sherry, a snack,” says Serpa.
While the matrimonio dish is included among the raw bar items, it’s a good lead-in to the next menu section, conservas, a collection of preserved seafood such as mussels, squid, and sardines. The conservas are served with bread, parsley salad, and roasted tomato butter.
Tapas frías — cold small plates — follow, with selections like Spain’s famous pan con tomate (tomato and garlic on pressed toast); jamón iberico; and a caviar-topped Spanish omelet that’ll set you back $50.
Alcachofas and boquerones
Next up, tapas calientes — hot small plates — such as the pictured dish, crispy baby artichokes with white anchovies and a citrus and chive aioli. The combination of the artichoke and aioli with the tartness of the anchovy is “really, really good,” notes Serpa.
This portion of the menu also includes the beloved snack patatas bravas (crispy potatoes with aioli and salsa brava); salt cod croquettes with squid ink aioli; arroz negro with bomba rice, cuttlefish fried garlic, and lemon; and more.
The menu’s “a la plancha” section includes Galician octopus with a squid ink sauce, piquillo peppers, pickled fennel, shaved red onion, and parsley — “very Spanish flavors,” says Serpa. “Obviously you’ve gotta have octopus at a Spanish place.”
Another “a la plancha” selection, the Gulf of Maine hake filet is served in the Basque “pil pil” style, sauteed with olive oil, garlic, parsley puree, and lemon.
This part of the menu is rounded out with dishes such as Duxbury razor clams with chorizo vinaigrette and a braised lamb shoulder with Moorish spices and cucumber salad.
There’s paella, too, with chorizo and a medley of seafood. It’s a “heartier dish,” says Serpa.
Grilled linguiça hash
Brunch begins right on Atlántico’s first weekend, including dishes like this grilled linguiça hash, a riff on the Portuguese soup caldo verde, which typically includes greens like kale or collard greens, potatoes, and linguiça. At Atlántico, the hash includes potatoes, onions, peppers, kale, grilled linguiça, and a sunny-side-up egg.
Serpa loves the aforementioned Portuguese soup at Casa Portugal in Cambridge’s Inman Square, and the restaurant also provides inspiration in terms of beverages: “You go there and see old men drinking cheap red wine and eating clams,” Serpa says. “That looks awesome; these guys are loving it. We’re doing carafes of our house wine, a tempranillo, with water glasses, an ode to the old men at Casa Portugal.”
Serpa is behind the Spanish and Portuguese wine list — “obviously, we’re going to have sherry,” he says — while bar manager Gabriel Bellegard Bastos is handling the beer and cocktails, the latter of which are named for beaches in Spain, Portugal, and beyond. (Disclosure: Bellegard Bastos previously contributed to Eater Boston.) Cocktails include the Luquillo, a tropical Old Fashioned named for a Puerto Rican beach; the Sitges, gin with fortified wines and lime, named for a coastal Spanish resort town known for its beaches; and more. The compact beer list is mostly local, including a Notch pilsner, a Night Shift sour, and a Foolproof porter, among other options.
To start, Atlántico’s daytime cafe service features baked goods from the South End’s French bakery, Cafe Madeleine, and coffee from Ipswich-based roaster Little Wolf. Eventually cafe service might grow to include sandwiches and other items made in-house, dovetailing into lunch, but for now, Serpa and his team are keeping things easy and seeing how daytime hours play out.
Atlántico is serving dinner seven nights a week, starting at 5 p.m.; brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; and cafe fare on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner reservations are available via Opentable. The restaurant — which is located in the high-ceilinged former Southern Proper space at 600 Harrison Ave. — is offering distanced indoor dining; the large front windows and door will remain open as long as possible to increase air flow. Outdoor seating and takeout are also available, with delivery coming soon.
“We want it to be fun,” Serpa says. “We want it to be boisterous, which it will be at some point” post-COVID, when the dining room can be comfortably packed full of people. For now, though, the airy space offers as much room as possible to those who are comfortable dining inside, and the menu offers a taste of travel destinations that Bostonians probably won’t be able to visit for a while.