David Ansill has returned to Philadelphia from his Jamaican jag, and shifted his roguish culinary gaze from French to Spanish flavors at what may be the last grown-up restaurant left in Bart Blatstein's slice of Northern Liberties. Handsome Bar Ferdinand now finally has a chance at a chef-driven identity to go with excellent service and ambience. The menu has highlights but still shows the inconsistency of flux between the old standbys and the handcrafted, edgy approach that Ansill brings.
Pan con tomate; olives and almonds; house-cured charcuterie; tortilla Española; ramps with mushroom cream; crispy pig ears; Manchego frito with frozen apple foam; fennel-seared tuna; crab croquette; octopus; pork belly; rabbit with carrot puree; mushroom fideos; paella Valenciana; pork cheeks in brava sauce; passion fruit parfait; churros.
A very good Spanish list, with 17 worthy wines by the glass (Rueda Garciarevalo "Casamaro," Manchuela Bodegas Ponce "Clos Lojen"), a solid range of bottles (try the Labastida Crianza Rioja, or splurge for López de Heredia "Viña Cubillo"), a nice sherry selection (la Cigarrera Manzanilla), and a memorable sherry-infused cocktail (Las Ramblas, a Manhattan with Amontillado.) The small beer list is respectable (Unibroue; Sly Fox), but the most intriguing bottle is the funky Isastegi Basque cider.
Up front, it's extremely noisy at 96 decibels. It's quieter (but dull) in back. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.)
Dinner Sun.-Thurs., 4:30-10 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., until 11 p.m. Late night menu Sun.-Thurs., 10 p.m.-midnight; Fri. and Sat., 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Brunch Sat. and Sun., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Tapas, $4-$18 (about three per person.) Paella for two, $30.