I found myself, yet again, at Northern Liberties Walk for some grub-getting’ – this time at Bar Ferdinand, a Spanish tapas restaurant. They hype on Bar Ferdinand is that they have authentic Spanish tapas at reasonable prices ($3-$9 per plate), and, during the warmer months, a huge pan of paella is cooked out on the front walk during Sunday brunch.
We went for dinner mid-week, and sat outside – along with everyone else in the city, as the weather was perfect. Nighttime and no sun, I played with the ISO on my camera in order to get pictures that were not pitch black. It worked, but the picture quality is horrible. The food is much prettier in person.
I had the white wine sangria, but was a little disappointed to see only citrus and one lone strawberry. You know how you get excited about fruit salad and it comes out all cantaloupes with two grapes? That’s how I felt. I ordered another one, though.
Bar Ferdinand’s tapas menu is divided into sections, and I was happy to see that each section contained at least one vegetarian option.
The roasted eggplant and lentil filled empanada with romesco sauce was probably our least favorite item we ordered. The empanada was not bad, it was just not memorable. We’ll let lentils take the blame.
The Manchego Frito, skewered Membrillo-stuffed fried Manchego cheese and frozen apple foam sitting on walnut Membrillo puree was delicious – and memorable. I’m a sucker for savory and sweet in the same bite, so loved these. I dissected the fried Manchego cheese cube, but could not detect the Membrillo. The Membrillo and walnut paste was sweet enough, though. The frozen apple foam was…interesting. It had the texture of silken tofu, but cold.
The only major upset of the night was one of the specials. The server didn’t disclose all of the ingredients (although she listed many) in the bacalao special. My partner was ready for salt cod, but not the chorizo in the dish. Pork can be a big deal for people of certain religions – not just vegetarians. It’s best for servers to remember if pork is in a dish and mention if it is.
Tapas plates are small, so after our first four dishes – one of which we couldn’t eat – we were still hungry, so ordered the eggplant, roasted tomato, arugula, and Manchego cheese bocadillo with sherry vinaigrette. I was surprised that out of all of our dishes, I liked the seemingly mundane eggplant sandwich the best. I fiendishly swabbed up any vinaigrette dripped on my plate with the sandwich. I’m a firm believer in sauce making or breaking a sandwich, and the addictively tangy sherry vinaigrette made this sandwich. The sandwich is actually filling, so if you’re looking to shave some dough off your bill, start with the sandwich.
Tapas are great because there’s always room for dessert. I had my heart set on the saffron rice pudding, which the server warned that some people don’t like because of the overriding saffron flavor. I found the saffron just fine, but the orange liqueur-soaked dried cherries were bitter and off-putting. I’m not fond of orange-liqueur, though.
The churros came highly recommended, and what’s not to like about fried dough? The accompanying chocolate was too thick, though, and on the bitter side – similar to straight melted bittersweet chocolate.
I enjoyed everything at Bar Ferdinand, even though I had small qualms with a few dishes. The Manchego Frito and the eggplant bocadillo were the stand-outs of the night, and will definitely be ordered again. With other vegetarian tapas missed on the first go round, another trip is warranted.
Bar Ferdinand, 1030 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA
Sun.-Wed, 5p.m.-1a.m.;Thurs.-Sat., 5p.m.-2a.m.; Sun., 11a.m.-3p.m.