We decided to finally check out Scott Evans' new venture down the street from our house. I was pretty hesitant about this place for a few reasons. First, I'm not a huge Pago fan. Second, Finca has been getting brutalized amongst the reviewers that I've read in its first couple of months. But then I heard friends say that they'd been in late May and it was great, so we decided to give it a go. I also noticed that they redid the menu just a few days before our visit, so I thought maybe they had retooled and ironed out the kinks (I was right in thinking this).
The ONLY way to eat small plates is with as large of a group as possible. Of the tapas menu, our crew sampled most of the menu. Unfortunately, with a large group, I only captured about half of those items before they looked too eaten to be shot. But, I feel like we got a great feel for the menu and I highly recommend ordering the whole thing, just make sure you bring enough friends to make that happen.
I'm going to group things into what we could take or leave (first), and then I'm going to tell you what you should absolutely not leave without trying. Since I'm going through the less positive part of this review first, I'll give you a preview of the verdict: we had a fantastic night at Finca and will be going back often. I also need to caveat my grouping by saying that if you asked everyone at our table what was great and what had room for improvement, everyone would answer differently. There was only one dish that was universally disliked, and several that were universally loved.
Food is served at Finca as it comes out of the kitchen, so you begin to receive plates almost immediately after your order goes into the computers. The Albondigas came out first and were good, not great. This is a lamb meatball with tomato sauce and manchego cheese. It tasted like a good meatball but didn't keep me super interested. One person in our group, however, thought these were the best things she'd ever tried.
We ordered the Almendras - a combo plate of almonds including house smoked honey roasted, marcona and espelette pepper. No complaints at all, but I might have skipped these. If you feel like some good almonds, these are good almonds, just wasn't anything beyond that.
The only item that we were all really disappointed with was the empanada. Look how beautiful it is! But alas, it was near flavorless braised beef plated with near flavorless sauce. The good news is that the empanada changes on a nightly basis, so I'm sure they'll scrap this guy and do something delicious soon.
Finally, we had mixed opinions on the Tortilla Espanola. My thought was that it wasn't bad but I wouldn't order it next time, but a couple people at the table really loved it. I did enjoy the greens and would say that if the picture below calls out to you, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Ok now on to the good stuff - one of the specials that our server mentioned was going to be making its way onto the menu permanently was the ceviche. It is not an orthodox ceviche, but the flavors are all there - sushi grade hamachi, fresh greens, mint, onion, and a few other items that I can't remember. The fish was awesome and the presentation is very cool. Came off more like sushi, but tasted like really good ceviche as long as you made sure to include a bit of everything in each bite.
I thought the Tosta Setas was one of the better items on the menu. It is a toasted thick slice of country bread topped with smoked ricotta then mushrooms and pine nuts. I really liked this one and will order it every time we go back if it's on the menu.
Calabacin a la Plancha - this was another huge winner for me - zucchini, olive, salsa verde and toasted garlic.
Papas y Aioli: local potatoes, paprika and garlic aioli. Reviews on this dish within our group ranged from "really good" to "best thing on the menu". They are super heavy on the paprika but really good and a great addition for anyone who might be worried about needing some filling items to balance out the small plates.
Ensalada de Remolacha - funky little local beets make the presentation on this salad that also includes house made cheese, pickled strawberries, walnuts and honey wine vinegar. I love beets, so I loved this salad. It is on my must-order list.
Will I ever go to a restaurant that has pork bellies on the menu without ordering? No. These are served over a minted pea puree and "mojo rojo sauce". What is a "mojo rojo sauce" you might ask? No clue, but the pork bellies were cooked very nicely and the minted puree was a great accouterment.
The kale (Verdes Estofado) was so good that my wife ate about half of it. This is a big deal, because when she was pregnant I got onto a soup kick and made a bunch of kale-focused soups. Given that this was the the nauseated time in her pregnancy, she's ever since avoided kale like the plague. So, when she turned to me and said, "Mark - I just ate most of a plate of kale, and I think I might want some more", we were both surprised. Let it be a testament to how good this plate was.
Zanahoria de Asador - the grilled multicolor carrots, cumin honey and saffron butter were great - almost a dessert-like sweetness thanks to the honey and some perfectly cooked young carrots. The greens are left on the carrots and the sauces were so good that everyone at every single thing on this plate: greens, carrots, sauces and herbs.
We ordered the mussels, but that evening they were out of Mussels so we were offered the same preparation with clams. This was another must-order. The sauce is killer - and the chorizo added some body to the really tender and giant clams in the dish. After the clams were gone, the cava lemon sauce was the perfect excuse to ask for another hunk of bread.
The last picture I have to show off is the croquetas - serrano ham, marcona almond pistou, greens and radish. I thought this was really good - opinions were slightly mixed but nobody disliked the plate. We ordered this during our second round so we were just about ready to be done when it arrived, and that might have colored our enjoyment a bit, but I'd order again.
The only item that I didn't photograph that I have to mention is the aspargus. It was my personal favorite. A nice sized bunch of asparagus topped with a little cornucopia of serrano ham that contains a poached local egg. Salsa verde and breadcrumbs finished the dish off nicely. I thought this was a fantastic take on the classic ham or proscuitto and asparagus dish. The egg yolk that mixed into everything turned a nice veggie dish into a much richer plate. I'd go back just to eat this one.
The evening was made even better by a $10 corkage fee that is offered at Finca. So, we all ate until full and drank plenty of wine and the bill came out under $55 per couple. This felt like fantastic value and was about 1/2 of what I was expecting when I opened up the check.
The Verdict? I might not go here on a date for two, but Finca will probably be my first thought from now on when I have a larger group. I was really blown away (in a good way) by the consistency and pricing at Finca - we tried most of the menu and found almost nothing that wasn't good. Finca would be a great option at twice the price, but the fact that you can go crazy without giving too much thought to the bill pushes Finca over the top for me.