This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
When I heard Finca was moving from its first home on 1100 East, I was skeptical. I'd eaten in the new space on 200 South when it was a Thai restaurant, and found it cavernous, dark and completely lacking in any logical flow.
On my first visit to Finca's new place, all I could say was "Wow." Or maybe it was "Holy cow." Owner Scott Evans, who also claims Pago, East Liberty Tap House and Hub & Spoke Diner (which moved into Finca's old space), has transformed the place.
It's still big, but now the room has clearly defined zones: A lounge area with upholstered seating and a bar is in front, with the main dining room behind it, and a couple of private rooms to the east are curtained off with heavy drapery. The unifying force is a black and white tile floor, and when the lights are glowing on the cloth-covered tables, the effect is sophisticated but cozy.
Finca's space isn't all that's grown: The menu offers an expanded selection of tapas and large plates, all of it begging to be consumed with a selection from the extensive menu of Spanish wines.
What hasn't changed is Evans' commitment to supporting local farmers, with an emphasis on seasonal produce, and the kitchen's practice of "nose to tail," or using most of an animal thanks to in-house butchering.
Along with wine, Finca offers a selection of craft cocktails, and makes its own tonic in such flavors as lavender honey and lemongrass citrus tonic. I tried the latter with vodka ($8) and found it a pleasantly tart spin on an old favorite ($8). The restaurant makes sangria, too, in a red variety with seasonal fruit and cinnamon, and a white flavored with pear brandy, basil and peach ($5 per glass).
I normally go to Finca for tapas, but diners who prefer a more traditional meal can opt for one of the large plates, ranging from two varieties of paella ($26 and $34) and a 10-ounce bavette steak with chimichurri ($28) to a whopping 24-ounce ribeye ($78). Be aware, however, that those dishes require 30-45 minutes to prepare.
On my most recent visit, we began with pintxos (PEENCH-ohs), or individual tapas. Blue cheese-stuffed dates, wrapped in bacon (2 for $2) were pungent bites of salty and sweet. Next came a chilled avocado soup flavored with cilantro ($4). It was a textural progression: a creamy base studded with chunks of orange, which added nothing in the way of flavor, and finished with crunchy pieces of candied pistachio. Most of its flavor came from a squiggle of pepper-infused oil.
Our favorite was the local corn done three ways: smoked, charred and sautéed; fried hominy; and as a relish ($9). The surprise this time was that they came mixed together with a sprinkling of cotija cheese. Again, the theme was sweet and salty, accented by the hominy's fatty crunch. It was a veritable cornucopia.
Both the soup and the corn were late-season offerings, and are no longer on the menu, which very recently was switched up to showcase the best of fall.
One of my new favorites is a beautifully composed pinxto of trout mousse on a house-made lavosh cracker ($2 each). The mousse was just the right amount of creamy, tasting fully of trout without being fishy, and a perfect counterpoint to the flaky cracker. The crowning glory was ruby threads that had a slight bite, like spun pepper.
The fabada ($12), a stew of white beans, pork, greens and a dark sausage called butifarra, was not its equal only because it was undercooked, as if someone got a late start getting in on the stove. It just didn't have that melded texture that comes from proper stewing, as evidence by beans that were positively toothy.
A couple of other dishes were under-seasoned. The pork belly ($15) was tender and layered with luscious fat but needed more than the faint sesame and almond mole that came with it. And the octopus was begging for something beyond paprika and olives ($14). We had to ask for a salt shaker.
The chicken croquetas ($10) were divine as always, elevated by the béchamel that makes them so very creamy, with a finishing sauce of pureed watercress. Whole prawns came dressed in classic gastronomic finery: garlic, white wine and herb butter ($14). Sometimes, simplicity is a virtue.
We capped our meal with a smooth ricotta cheesecake that evoked the essence of Indian summer, with a garnishing puddle of pickled peaches ($8). I wouldn't have thought to do that to a peach, but I'm glad someone did.
Our server was friendly and helpful, offering a number of suggestions. But a couple of plates were picked up (not always by her) before we were done with them. I hate it when good sauce disappears while I still have bread for dipping.
Finca is one of my favorite date-night destinations, but the expanded space also makes it a good option for larger parties. While not everything on the expanded menu hit the mark, Finca's evolution is heading in the right direction.
Food • HHhj
Mood • HHHhj
Service • HHhj
Noise • bb
Finca's relocation to more spacious quarters in downtown Salt Lake City was a good move. There's a changing lineup of small plates, depending on the season, all created to be consumed with a glass from the well-rounded menu of Spanish wines. And, now there's space for private parties, too.
Location • 327 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 801-487-0699
Online • fincaslc.com
Hours • Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$$-$$$$
Liquor • Full service
Reservations • Yes
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • No ($5 valet parking in winter)
Credit cards • Yes