Spice Finch, an innovative modern-Mediterranean restaurant run by Executive Chef Jennifer Carroll, is a wonderful place to spend an evening.
Housed in the Warwick Hotel, the modern, bright, art-deco inspired space is the perfect setting for the fresh, authentic take on this trendy cuisine. Our waiter described the food as Mediterranean — and explained that they take that to mean any country that touches the sea —so there are Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Israeli, Greek, North African, French and Middle Eastern flavors and preparations on offer. It works brilliantly.
The menu comprises mainly small plates designed for sharing, and a selection of “for the table” main courses. Our quartet sampled a goodly number of the dishes, and we are all eager to come back for more.
We started with the fatoush, a salad of green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon radishes and toasted bits of pita perfectly dressed in a tomato vinaigrette. We couldn’t resist the shabazi fries — perfectly crisp and spiced French fries with the most heavenly aioli for dipping. The merguez kebab delivered a spicy sausage on a bed of fresh vegetables, and our final starter, the croquettes, delivered crispy, decadent orbs filled with Mahon cheese.
Our mains were equally delicious.
The whole roasted fish was a black bass topped with leek vinaigrette, and served with basmati rice and preserved lemons. I generally avoid whole fish; I find the head and tail off putting and I have limited fileting skills. But my companions were gung ho, so I agreed. It was fairly easy to pull the fish from the bones, and it was admittedly delicious. The lamb was more my speed; flavorful, fall-off-the-bone meat in reduction of the date-infused braising liquid served with roasted vegetables and a side of warm grain salad.
For dessert, we sampled “shredded wheat,” a rolled Middle Eastern pastry stuffed with nuts and cinnamon and topped with lemon syrup. It was flaky and sweet and ideal for sharing. The burnt cream, my favorite, was sort of a Middle Eastern version of crème brulee, but lighter and more exotic. And the chocolate tahini cake was exactly as it is described — a rich chocolate cake infused with tahini.
The beverage menu offers an assortment of unique and classic cocktails, wines by the glass and craft beers. Our server gave us excellent advice on a red wine to accompany the meal; when we mentioned a Cote du Rhone, he suggested a Sardinian red that perfectly complemented to the food.
While certainly not a budget option, prices were what one could expect at a higher-end restaurant these days, and were not excessive, considering the quality and style of the food. Small plates ranged from $6 for spiced nuts to $23 for the petite filet, with most options falling in the $12 range. Shared mains ranged from $24 for salt-baked eggplant to $36 for the lamb; fish was market price and varies daily.
If you go:
Spice Finch is located at 220 S. 17th St., Philadelphia
They serve breakfast Monday-Sunday from 7-10:30 a.m. Brunch is on Saturday and Sunday from 10: 30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Happy hour is Monday-Thursday from 4-6 p.m. and dinner is Sunday-Thursday 5-11 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.