Restaurants & Bars 5


David Bresch | Oct 23, 2005 04:06 AM

My wife and I ate at Estia last night. I think the place is in for a tough ride.

The menu is conservative Greek food and startingly expensive. There is nothing like it in Center City.

My wife and I ate very lightly, ordering 3 appetizers, a salad, a drink, and desert. Portions were medium-sized, perhaps we were disapointed because the bartender had warned us "portions are huge." The dinner cost $43/person.

I honestly do not expect to find such a restaurant in Center City, and I imagine it would be rare in the USA. Normally, Americans associate Greek food with cheap large portions. Abroad, Greek is one of the cuisines that can be expensive in certain parts of the world. I was at a similar restaurant in Bucharest with an iced fish display like Estia's, where you choose your dinner. But I am not sure how Estia's pricing by the pound is going to fly, which is also unique for Philadelphia (except for most restaurant's lobster dinners and Chinatown).

Also, certain dishes were more lessons in international food than really delicious. For instance, the sardines were tasty but such large sardines have bones that need to be spit out. The desert we ordered, essentially yogurt with honey on top, was a lip-puckering exercise in culinary internationalism, rather than something I will race to try again. The only dish that really disappointed me was the salad, which the over-enthusiastic waiter over-sold, and ultimately was just a bowl of tomatoes with two pieces of feta. Dmitri's salad is a model and much better.

The space is huge, almost grandiose, and the service is bumpy. As we sat down for example, our hostess shocked us by asking "So what do you think about the restaurant?" before we had even eaten anything. And though most tables were unoccupied, even when we finished after seven, when we walked in without a reservation the host said we should wait while they "prepared a table," though all the tables were set.

The overhead music corresponds to the food: old-fashioned Greek pop music. When I asked for Elefteria Arvanitaki (Greece's best-known modern singer), the waiter told me "This is not a request kind of a situation," meaning the music was pre-taped.

We had a nice time but we will not be back any time soon. The restaurant is not that much fun, and it is very, very expensive. It is unique for an expensive restaurant in the Avenue of the Arts area, and I think it will be a tough sell to typical diners there.

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