Spork on Penn Ave. in Bloomfield brings a fun, creative type of dining experience to the neighborhood. We had been looking to check this one out for a while, and when Spork invited us in for a review we were in.
Well-executed small plates are just part of the draw – an equally impressive feature of Spork is the chef's tasting table. This row of seats lines the kitchen and provides a front row view of all the action.
As we love to cook and have sometimes fancied ourselves as wannabe chefs, watching up close the intensity of the work that goes on reminded us that there is a reason we haven't yet become Michelin-starred ourselves.
A Menu of Pizza, Pasta, and Tapas at Spork
The menu is pretty large and diverse, but most items are smaller sized portions. Categories for the smaller dishes include things like “jars” (dips, olives, pickles, etc.), tapas, bites, and salads, while the larger dishes are in the pizza, pasta, “composed”, and large plates sections.
Our server helped us with navigating the menu and ordering an appropriate amount of food, which we appreciated.
Impressively, Spork has also an in-house program for curing meats and has a separate charcuterie menu devoted to these creations. You can order just a few tapas style bites, or a small or large tasting board with an array of cured meats, cheeses, and house-made pickles.
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As we wanted to save room to try out as many menu other menu items as possible, we just decided to order one of the tapas style dishes, the lonza, which is cured pork loin.
Incredibly thin slices of lonza were drizzled with an orange-infused oil and topped with crispy fried shallots. The meat was served with house made bread that we had watched bake before our very eyes from our seats at the chef's table.
The pork loin was so thin, tender, and rich, countered by the light citrus flavor from the oil. It was so good that it made us wish we had ordered a larger tasting board of cured meats. But we will have to save that for next time!
Go For a Mix of Tapas and Cocktails
In between bites we also enjoyed two delicious cocktails- the Painkiller and the “I Don't Want No Shrub.” The Painkiller had fruity pineapple and orange flavors that were balanced with rum and coconut and some grated nutmeg on top.
The “I Don't Want No Shrub” was a mix of gin, cocoa nibs, jalapeno, and watermelon shrub, with the gin and watermelon shrub being the dominant flavors. Often times shrub-based drinks tends toward either too sweet or too vinegary, but this one had an impressive balance between fruitiness, sweetness, and a tangy vinegary punch. It was a perfectly refreshing summer drink!
The next three small plates that we ordered came out together – ceviche, eggplant croquettes, and jerk chicken. The eggplant croquettes had an almost creamy interior and a light, cripsy fried coating. A garlicky aioli was drizzled on top.
The jerk chicken was one of our favorite plates of the evening with extremely tender, juicy chicken with a nice caramelized char on the outside. The spice rub was a good blend of smokey, spicy, and sweet with a punch of citrusy lime, while a drizzle of avocado cream sauce tied everything together.
The ceviche was our other favorite dish of the evening. Mind-blowingly tender and juicy chunks of halibut mixed with some slightly spicy chilis and sweet mango, and the whole thing rested on top of a cream sauce. Perfection! Starchy fried plantains served along side for dipping were an added bonus.
Our last dish came out after the other three appetizers and was the casarecce pasta dish. The dish was a bit heavy for summer, but the flavors were good. Tomatoes, mushrooms, and caramelized onions contributed intense umami flavors, while big chunks of briny feta and a bit of spiciness from chili flakes rounded out the dish.
For dessert we tried the cinco leches cake, which started with a base of a light, spongy coconut ginger tres leches cake. A rich dulce de leche sauce covered the bottom of the plate, while a creamy vanilla ice cream topped the cake. Peach slices in a lime sauce on the side helped balance the sweetness.
Overall, we were really impressed by the concept and the food at Spork.
The price ranges for the small plates are reasonable, and snacking our way through a meal is probably our favorite way to eat. The attention to detail and good execution of the dishes make this spot one to return to. And as if the food wasn't enough reason to come back, sitting at the chef's table and watching all the action in the kitchen adds another layer of fun.
Spork is located at 5430 Penn Avenue in Bloomfield (at the border with Garfield and Friendship).
We'd like to thank our friends at Spork for inviting us out for dinner. As always, all opinions are our own.