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Review

Max Grudzinski

Spice Finch

Written by
Max Grudzinski

Most of the time, it’s fun to be right. It’s fun to Google “Which Harry Potter book do they mention ‘snogging’ in for the first time?” and confirm that it is, in fact, Prisoner of Azkaban like you said, and not Goblet of Fire, which your brother put $10 on. But there are other times when you kind of hope that you’re wrong, like when you think you might have left the oven on and you’re about to board a flight for a two-week trip. Or when you go to a new upscale restaurant in Rittenhouse thinking it will probably be just like all of the other overpriced spots in the area where you eat mashed potatoes topped with caviar and get called “madame” or “sir.” In those situations, you hope you’re horribly wrong.

Luckily, we were wrong about Spice Finch. Even though it just looks like another fancy Rittenhouse spot reserved for a rich aunt’s birthday, it’s actually the kind of place you can go for a casual weeknight dinner when you’re okay with spending a little extra money, drinking a $14 cocktail, and eating some really good Mediterranean food.

Max Grudzinski

When you first walk into Spice Finch, you won’t notice anything super different about it. This place has the same heavy wooden tables and leather-backed chairs that most other special occasion spots have, and the servers are dressed in black and white uniforms like they were just transferred from LaCroix down the street. But somewhere between your garlic yogurt crudité and broccoli tabouleh, you’ll realize this place isn’t exactly The Bellevue.

You’ll see Flyers fans at the big bar wearing jerseys and watching the game on TV, while other people befriend the bartender. Back at your table, your server will pull over a chair to sit and walk you through the big menu. All of a sudden, this isn’t just a place for the marketing dinner your boss asked you to plan - it’s somewhere you actually want to hang out.

The food here kind of surprises you as well. It’s just as expensive as any other special occasion spot in Rittenhouse, which is another reason we initially put it in the “only use in case of emergencies” box, but it’s mostly very good and gets better with every course. The appetizers, which range from mahon croquettes to shishito peppers with tahini and harissa, are all solid, and the fattoush with cucumber, green beans, and tomato vinaigrette is one of the only salads we’d go out of our way for when we live a block away from Honeygrow. But where Spice Finch really impresses is the entrees. Especially the lamb ribs, which are sweet, tender, and covered with a glaze of spices and charred skin. The charred octopus and the berbere carrots are worth getting too, but the lamb ribs are the one thing you’ll be thinking about two months later when you’re at a wedding and a disappointing plate of flank steak ends up in front of you.

Max Grudzinski

That being said, there are bound to be things that aren’t perfect on a menu this large, and they could probably cut about 10 dishes without anyone noticing. The broccoli tabouleh, for example, isn’t something we’d tell anyone to get here. It’s not that it’s bad - it’s pretty hard to mess up tabouleh - but adding broccoli to it doesn’t the make the dish any more unique or flavorful. And the croquettes could be significantly improved by losing the avocado tomatillo underneath them - there are a bunch of sauces you can order a la carte, like the harissa, that work much better.

Even if you’ve walked by Spice Finch, looked in the window, and thought to yourself, “I probably can’t go in there if I’m wearing anything that can go in a normal washing machine,” you should give it another shot. You’ll be surprised at how easily you start to feel comfortable here, and you’ll be happy your first impressions were way, way off.

Food Rundown

Berbere Carrots

There are a lot of vegetables on the menu here, but if we had to pick one to illegally carry onto an international flight, it would be these berbere carrots. They’re topped with cashew nuts and sit in a pool of citrus vinaigrette, and it’s even better when you get a side of the garlic yogurt to dip the carrots in.

Lamb Ribs

You want these. You want them now, you want them tomorrow, you want them every day of your life. They’ll never betray or hurt you, they’ll be there for you when times get tough, and they will protect you for all the days of your life. We just wrote wedding vows for a plate of lamb. Take that for what it’s worth.

Fattoush

Our second favorite thing here (after the lamb ribs) and one of the only salads we’d travel for. It’s fresh, crunchy, and the lack of lettuce in it makes us really happy.

Croquettes

The croquettes themselves are great - stuffed with mahon cheese and about six times better than your average late-night mozzarella stick. But the avocado-tomatillo sauce they come with doesn’t do much for the dish. Fortunately, you can order sauces a la carte, and we really like the harissa for these.

Charred Octopus

There’s always an octopus dish on the menu here, but the preparation changes seasonally. In our experience, they’re all great. This one has mushrooms, smoked squash, and a tomato chutney, and it all works together perfectly.

Broccoli Tabouleh

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and while it’s a perfectly good bowl of tabouleh, there are better things you can eat here. Skip it.

Garlic Yogurt

You can get this as an appetizer with crudite or as just a side of sauce. We recommend just getting the side and rapping “If I dip, you dip, we dip” to yourself as you use it on everything you order.

Burnt Cream

This is kind of like a panna cotta, except it tastes like a marshmallow after you’ve put it in the fire to make a s’more and then decide to screw all the other ingredients and just eat the marshmallow plain.

Shredded Wheat

If you want a small bite of something sweet to end your dinner, but aren’t ready to commit to something as decadent as the burnt cream, get the shredded wheat. It tastes like baklava, but much lighter.

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