Ever have a restaurant in your neighborhood that is so consistently good that you get bored with it? I know that sounds silly but it doesn't mean it can't happen. I love Honey Nut Cheerios. It's my favorite breakfast cereal and they are consistently delicious - no variations in 32 years now. But I just can't eat them every day. I need to mix it up with Frosted Mini Wheats, Tony the Tiger or some Fruity Pebbles now and then to keep my sanity.
Such is the case with Bar Ferdinand for me. It's been one of the anchors of Northern Liberties and certainly THE anchor of liberties walk for 6 years now. They've stuck with a very solid menu of Spanish tapas, meats, cheeses and small plates that has won them a consistent following and excellent reviews for more than half a decade. They were doing tapas before Garces made it cool, and helped to legitimize the neighborhood. Question is, how many times can I eat bacon & date empanadas or a cerdo frito sandwich before I become desensitized?
I'm the type of person that constantly craves the new flavor, a twist on an old classic, a cuisine I've never experienced before. I had subconsciously held off on doing our monthly Supper Club at Bar Ferd for a lot of the aforementioned reasons. I'd been there done that. What have you cooked for me lately?
Enter Chef David Ansill of Pif, Ansill and Ladder 15 (wtf?) fame. I'd been eating at his various restaurants for years now, and was very excited to see him take over the helm and put his touch on the kitchen. While not a complete reinvention, the updated menu has several new dishes and some updated takes on my favorites. Our experience for Supper Club was nothing short of extraordinary. For a $40 tasting menu we got to try 12 different dishes, including a substantial main and two desserts. The wine was flowing freely (although not cheaply) and by the end of the night you could have rolled me down liberties walk.
Blistered shishito peppers cleverly served on a piece of Cuban newsprint. The peppers are delicious, reminiscent of the ones we raved about on our trip to Spain last year. Every third of fourth pepper is a surprise of heat that smacks you in the mouth. Kind of like Russian roulette with peppers. An excellent new addition to the menu and indicative of the thoughtfulness in the kitchen.
Manchego frito, apple foam and quince puree. The foam is actually frozen, creating a crazy mouth sensation of the cold and the hot fried cheese. Not one of my favorite dishes of the night but an interesting take on an old standby here.
House marinated olives are as good as ever, especially those little purple ones. I could nibble on these all day.
|broccoli & kale soup|
|almond crusted eggplant|
|date & bacon empanada|
|patatas bravas w/ shishito peppers|
|roasted mushroom coca|
|roasted chicken with chorizo and catalan spinach|
|churros con chocolate|
Dessert was an exercise in fortitude. By this point we had already had 10 tastings and an entrée. This was going to take serious motivation. Platters of flan with fresh fruit and churros con chocolate did the trick, and were pretty much obliterated in 5 minuntes. The flan was surprisingly very good - I'm not usually a flan person but this was almost impossible light and airy, without any of that thick syrup that you usually find it floating in. The churros were the star though - crispy fried lengths of dough and dipped in melted chocolate that would make Augustus Gloop want to dive right in.
Chef Ansill is the shake up that Bar Ferdinand desperately needed to stay relevant in our ever evolving dining scene. Staying true to the Spanish authenticity, but varying enough to keep me surprised and excited with every course. I feel like I've found a toy in my Cheerios. What a lovely surprise.
Food Baby Rating: Triplets!
1030 N. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
(At the eastern end of Liberties Walk)