Most of the vendors inside Northeast’s new Latin American food market are representing a singular culture or cuisine, but the minds behind Serenata wanted to showcase a broader perspective. Like the market itself, the triangular cocktail bar located smack in the center of La Cosecha collects ingredients from across the region, teaching visitors about the wealth of diversity and taste that exists from Mexico through Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
“It’s not only $3 tacos,” says co-owner Daniella Senior, the Colada Shop co-founder who spearheaded the food menu at Serenata. “We are up there. We have the same talent. We just need the same opportunities.”
That explains the effort and elegant plating that go into the bar’s botanas, drinking snacks ($9 to $15) modeled after traditional dishes from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and elsewhere.
Serenata opened in pop-up mode last Thursday, when La Cosecha (1280 Fourth Street SE) officially opened its doors in the Union Market district. When the bar celebrates its grand opening this Thursday, it will offer the full range of snacks that include squid ink arepas topped with cultured butter and sea urchin roe, a Colombian cheese bread bolstered by black truffle, and a version of Argentine choripan that adds charred avocado to the chorizo sandwich, which is served open-faced with chimchurri and cilantro aioli. Chef Tatiana Mora grows her own microgreens, which decorate many of the plates at the bar.
For Senior, the most personal dish is the plate of “Boquerones 1821,” named for the year the Dominican Republic declared independence from Spain. Tiny torched tiles of chayote squash — or tayota, as it’s known in the island nation — come with corn crema, mango, herb oil, and pickled white anchovies that are common in Spain.
Servers behind the bar at Serenata will be responsible for explaining the stories behind each plate of food, but the printed menu does much of the work for the staff when it comes to drinks. Beverage director Andra “AJ” Johnson and co-owner Juan Coronado have come up with a dozen cocktails that each have a full page of the menu devoted to them, including a drawing of the country of origin and a detailed description of different spirits.
For example, the Amazónica features Peruvian gin made from jungle botanicals to go with orange blossom honey, cucumber juice, and mint. Drops of oil from sacha inchi, a seed comparable to a peanut, add a savory dimension to the drink. Curaçao, the Dutch island north of Venezuela, gets its due with the Mar Caribe, a take on a pina colada arriving in a shell-shaped bowl big enough for two people that packs in white rum, blue Curacao, pineapple, horchata, tropical citrus, vanilla, sparkling wine, and pink salt air.
Serenata opens at 5 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday to start. A daytime operation in the space, called Zumo, will start selling juices, smoothies, and toasts later this fall.
Here’s a look at Serenata’s full menu, with botanas on the last page: