Fina Estampa and the story of doubt (longish)
I went to Fina Estampa last night, on the board's recommendation, and found the food only middling -- nothing that would compell me to return. Thus I suffered the sad doubt, so eloquently expressed by he who disliked DiFaro's, that I was not truly a chowhound. Maybe I'm only a foodie I thought, as I enviously passed an inviting gringo-spanish restaurant on 22nd/mission-valencia ("Esperento").
I started with the ceviche, which was fine, very tender squid, tiny little shrimps, some stray bits of fish, and plenty of marinated onions. Twas good, but not transcendent. Unfortunately, my friend had the potatoes with feta-cheese sauce, and couldn't force herself through more than one potato -- the sauce was the color of hollandaise and tasted mostly like egg yolk, but not in a good way. My boy had the shrimp-salad stuffed avocado, and the avocado was downright rotten (thoroughly brown beneath the massive mayonnaisey portion of shrimp salad. I am not exaggerating).
For entree I had the fish saltado, a nice hash of fried fish, french fries, fried tomatoes. It was tasty, but if anything it reminded me of English food! Everything was salty, warm and soggy. My friend had the beef version, which she felt equally okay about. And the boy had some fried chicken entree, which again was okay, but no better than what comes out of my frying pan.
THis was the mission-venue, so we they didn't offer the stuffed-squid that sounded so wonderful. And we weren't brave enough to try the beef hearts. But still, I didn't have any feelings about it which even remotely matched the undying praise I've read elsewhere on this board. And I can't get over the rotten avocado bit.
On the up side, before the meal we stopped in at Bruno's bar across the street for a drink, which looks old school, but has had a total face lift inside, and got very good cocktails in a swanky environmnet. See! that confirms my yuppistic tendencies ...
I'm one of the Fina Estampa big boosters on the board here, but I live in New York City and haven't eaten there in two years or so. What you describe sure doesn't sound remotely like what I've experienced at Fina Estampa even at its worst moments.
So I echo Jim's points. *Thanks* for the warning. A friend is on her way to SF and I recommended Fina to her, and now I'll have to do so with a big caveat.
I've taken enough people to the Mission branch to know that it isn't just me who loves/loved the place, and my suspicion, like Jim's, is that there was someone who shouldn't have been there in the kitchen.
Chowhound-ness isn't measured by lockstep agreement. Quite the contrary. The difference is that we CARE a lot!
I've never eaten at Fina Estampa, but:
1. I wonder if this might be a problem of this one branch
2. nearly everything you disliked sounded like a problem-of-the-kitchen-this-moment, and could easily reflect a mere bad night. Maybe the main chef was off.
I'm confused about the potato dish. FETA CHEESE on papas a la huancaina?? Nah, that should have been a mild-but-spicy cheese sauce, nothing nearly as sharp or interesting as feta. Expecting feta might indeed make one pale at the taste. Unless I'm completely missing something here (quite possible!).
re: Jim Leff
"potatoes with feta cheese sauce:" i swear that's how my friend read it off the menu. But I don't remember reading it.
Sad to hit a restaurant on an off-night when you don't go out to new joints too often :(
But then again our last visit to a familiar restaurant which is ordinarily fantastic was also disappointing. And if that had been someone else's first visit...