Fina Estampa

For Steve’s birthday dinner he wanted to go somewhere for the blog.  What a nice guy!  Since we were planning on hitting up a movie at the AMC 1000 (Youth In Revolt) he choose Fina Estampa.

Fina Estampa is notable for turning into a pretty off the hook dance club on some nights.  Other than that I knew nothing about it.  It looks kind of creepy from the outside because all the windows are pretty high off the ground so all you have to judge it by is the fortress-like exterior.  Inside is not much more inviting.

It’s rather cavernous and dark.  And, at least the night we were there, totally empty.  So empty, in fact, that we were almost sure that nobody was working there for at least a minute.  A really nice waiter eventually appeared and seated us and brought us our menus, then brought us bread and dips.

AMAZING bread and dips you guys.  This was the best thing we ate.  Check this stuff out.

The gold stuff is butter, obvs.  The white stuff is a kind of vinegary hominy.  The red is a super spicy roasted pepper sauce and the green stuff was this garlicky salty fucking delicious stuff.  I ate way too much of it.  Way way too much.  But I couldn’t stop.  I want to go back to Fina Estampa and just eat bread and dip and drink this.

Pisco Sour.  So delectable.  I think this has egg whites in it, but it tastes like a really good creamy margarita.  We got a pitcher of this for $26.  Totally worth it, especially because check out the classy wine glass you get to drink it out of!

Things went a little downhill from there.  It was so sad because I had such high hopes.  It didn’t suck or anything, but we didn’t have anything else as outstanding as the bread and the drinks.

Fina Estampa has their menu broken up into four sections; Tapas, Mexican Food, Peruvian Food and Platos de Mariscos.  We ended up ordering from each section except the Mexican food, because it was the most ordinary and boring, though if I were to return I’d probably order some quesadilla or something, because it’s also the cheaper sections.  We started off with the Spanish food,

When we ordered the mussels, or choros a la criolla, I was expecting steamed mussels, but these were more like a ceviche.  This was difficult to eat because there was so much of the pico de gallo-esque salsa on top of each mussel, and also because it was so lemon-y sour with not much salt to balance it out.  This could be remedied somewhat with some doctoring up with the bread condiments.  The sourness was also accentuated by the lack of flavor in most of the mussels.  They were of very uneven quality, there were a few that were tender, plump and sweet, but the others were bland and difficult to chew. 

Steve choose his entree from the Platos de Mariscos section of the menu, Saltado de Mariscos

I found the calamari to be the standout in this dish, which consisted of tomatoes and onions sauteed with calamari, clams and shrimp as well as french fries.  It was pretty good, but I think a saltado is better when it’s made with steak or chicken.  Seafood is a little more delicate in flavor and texture and has a harder time standing up to french fries.

I ordered from the Peruvian portion of the menu.  There were several dishes featuring noodles, and I couldn’t resist trying one.  I had never encountered noodles in South American food before, so how could I pass them up?  My tallarin de pollo was very much like chow mein, but not exactly.  The chicken strips were reminiscent of cheap Chinese food, dry and rough on the outside but moist on the inside and still pretty tasty, and the noodles were certainly chow mein noodles.  The tomatoes and onions were cut in a decidedly un-Chinese fashion, and the seasoning was more like what you’d expect in a Spanish dish.  It was an odd juxtaposition, and I definitely didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

In all, I enjoyed my experience at Fina Estampa.  It wasn’t the best food I’d ever had, but our waiter was really nice, and I like eating in a big empty room, and if I were to go again, the menu is so extensive that they would have a lot more chances to get it right.  I would recommend it as a spot to get a drink and bite before a movie at the AMC 1000; get that Pisco Sour.  Yum.

Fina Estampa

1100 Van Ness Ave