Bird of Paradise: The Finch

01/14/2015 9:30 AM |
Photo by Jane Bruce


The Finch
212 Greene Avenue, Clinton Hill


Imagine this: It’s a Friday night and you make plans to go out to dinner with your one or two (not five to eight) close friends, preferably at a time when normal, working people generally elect to eat (not 5:30 or 10:30 pm). So, you pick up the phone and you call that much-talked about new restaurant located on the ground floor of a 120-year-old Brooklyn brownstone. You know, the one opened by that Roberta’s alum. You’re successfully able to make a reservation. End scene. Sounds impossible, right? Like a high-flying fantasy? Turns out, The Finch makes this kind of specific-to-Brooklyn dream come true. 

Of course, even with the buzz that inevitably surrounds anything Roberta’s-related (chef/owner Gabe McMackin worked their ovens for years), it takes a lot to fill a seventy-plus-seat space —simply palatial by Brooklyn standards—in a predominantly residential section of Clinton Hill that’s essentially devoid of foot traffic. But The Finch is really everything you’d want in a neighborhood and destination restaurant: It’s bright, beautiful, and bustling, with an expansive marble bar ringed by surprisingly comfy high-backed stools, just the spot for lingering with a plate of charcuterie and a pint of Bell’s Amber Ale. Plus, there’s an entirely open, impressively regimented kitchen that spans between the two spacious dining rooms, turning out approachable dishes with just enough whimsy to keep things interesting—think trout with spaghetti squash and apple cider sauce, mussels and monkfish with yellow eye beans and ‘nduja, and planks of pork loin and belly served with bread pudding. 

On first glance, an assortment of snacks and small plates appear to obediently name-check current menu tropes—bread with local honey and sea salt! Baby red russian kale with smoked ricotta!—but McMackin manages to turn quite a few of those well-trod tropes on their heads. We were initially underwhelmed by the pretty palette of none-too-sweet beets and overly firm burrata, until we wrangled them into the perfect bite with caramelized leaves of bitter treviso, and citrusy, glassine shards of pine nut brittle. And instead of being pebbled with Sicily-inspired nuts and raisins, bouquets of roasted romanesco (cauliflower’s green, fractal-floreted cousin), take a left-hand turn at the Mediterranean, paired with Spanish boquerones, green and black olive purees and creamy goat’s milk feta. 

Our only current qualms with The Finch concern the service, which clips along with cool, brisk efficiency—menus are dropped off without preamble, plates whisked away while you’re still attempting to mop up sauce with your fork (probably necessitating the $8 splurge for bread). What’s the rush, when you’re not contending with a one-and-a-half hour-long wait list? But more troubling are the prices, which are potentially prohibitive for a Clinton Hill restaurant. Those aforementioned small plates run from $11-16 a pop, while the entrees are Williamsburg-high—$30 for flat iron beef with chard and potatoes, and $27 for what’s essentially a bowl of admittedly tasty einkorn wheat, spooned over an emulsion of “green things,” and topped with three bay scallops and four Burgundy snails. 

Consider it a small surcharge, I guess, for not having to wait for a table on a Friday night.