Last night Marty and I and Heather and Shanta took ourselves off to an apparently new Mediterranean tapas restaurant on San Gabriel. F – I – N – O, big multicolored letters. I heard the word ‘tapas’ and went all oogly.
It probably should have tipped us off when we walked in – a beautiful screened patio with cushioned seating, big open spaces, fancy tables and mirrors inside. The prices don’t dominate the menu by any stretch of the imagination. It took me a moment to realize that this place was priced a little like the Crab Company in Youngstown, but that didn’t bother me. It was so pretty! And the food sounded exotic. Gnocchi. Tzatziki. Fried goat cheese. (Dude.)
We ordered. They brought us bread and crackers. (Very strange, exotic, yummy crackers. Giant crackers.) And olive oil, with spices. (I love restaurants that do that. Yum.) We each picked something, tapas all for sharing. Cured salmon, salt roasted Yukon golds. Horseradish creme fraiche and chives. (Okay, Fino, horseradish cream and chives, it’s fresh, I’ve gotcha. Um, it’d better be fresh.) They had a small plate scallops special that wasn’t on the menu, scallops and mushrooms in a dark sauce. We don’t know what it was, but it sounded good.
When the first plate came, I think we all tried to control ourselves. We ended up laughing, and when we talked we said it was because of the cute little salmon tipi, but I’m pretty sure it was because of the size of the portion. When I had Spanish tapas in Atlanta with friends of my parents, the portions were reasonable – completely splitable between three or four people. Out of this salmon tipi, the four of us would get four… small… bites.
Now, that said, the salmon was really good. The potatoes were really good, the sauce (blah blah horseradish creme fraiche yes you are cute with your other languages) was incredibly yummy. Heather ordered spinach and Kasseri cheese spanakopitas – not spanakopitas plural form of spanakopita, but spanakopitas, the overall dish. “This spanakopitas is delicious.” You see what I mean. And it was. There were three little spanakopitas triangles, and we managed to split them equitably between the four of us. (We are clever.)
I tried Shanta’s Spanish potato tortilla and romesco – it was good, but I think a little strange. Like thick potato pie. And then Shanta ordered a large plate of potato gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms and super special Fino ricotta. Fancy! They gave us each a plate, a quarter of the order. That stuff was neat. It had summer corn and cherry tomatoes and brown butter, whatever the hell that is. It was great. Shanta is smart.
Our ten dollar scallops plate included two scallops – they were big scallops… but there were two. Despite this – I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I bet everyone will agree with me – the small scallops plate was totally worth it. That $2.50 half-a-scallop I ate, with a couple little mushrooms, was heaven. Oh my God.
I think we ordered two more small plates to share, and then stopped. Something with shrimp, and the fried goat cheese – oh dear lord, the fried goat cheese. I would never expect to like something called ‘onion jam’ but between the goat cheese and the onions and the honey, that plate was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. And I only got one-and-a-quarter balls of fried goat cheese, so that is a statement.
I would go back to Fino for the fried goat cheese. And the scallops, if I could afford them.
The prices were high, the portions were tiny, and the food was incredible. I think that just about covers it. Having never been to a restaurant with those exact specifications, I would say I walked out pretty damn happy. There is something strangely (strangely!) appealing about paying too much money for too little food. I mean, you can’t gorge yourself. Am I nuts?
One of us mentioned how weird it was that the restaurant was so chic, but the waiters were all in t-shirts. Hey, whatever floats your boat.
Their website, if you don’t mind looking at low res, faded color photos, is here. You can read the menu, anyway – that’s the only reason I remembered all the foods we ate.
Fancy schmancy Fino. That was fun. :P
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