January 7, 2012


I've always been a little afraid of getting caught "cheating" on my favorite Greek restaurant, Kanella, which perhaps explains why it has taken us a little while to make it over to Philly's newest addition to the Greek scene- Opa.  Open for almost a year now, it occupies a coveted spot in the "Midtown Village" area which is chock-full of good eats.

Advertising itself as serving a "modern" take on Greek food, the restaurant is airy and spacious- decorated with classic blue and white colors, wooden tables, and eye-catching lighting techniques.  Tables line the perimeter, circling a rectangular, marble-topped bar.  Elegant but still evoking a bit of Old World charm.

Our waiter was on the stoic side, but the service was virtually flawless.  Water glasses were refilled often from mismatching metallic or ceramic pitchers, again playing on the authentic Greek experience.  We each started out with an appetizer, which came out as they were prepared.  A's spinach croquettes ($8) were first up- a smooth, fried breading encasing a dense cheese and spinach mixture.  A smoky paprika-tinted feta dip enhanced the contrast between crispy and cheesy.  Nothing short of superb.

A's fiance ordered one of his staples- the fried kalamari ($10).  Wide strips of squid and plenty of tentacles were very lightly fried and tossed in a cracked pepper and spice mixture, accompanied by a subtly spicy but cool  and creamy red pepper and chili aioli.  Again, a great textural contrast.  My favorite part was the addition of large green olives and peppers to the mix- fried and spiced alongside the squid, imparting an almost imperceptible brine-y flavor to the whole dish.

The other two appetizers were salads- knowing my main dish was on the heavier side, I started with the winter salad ($10).  Served warm, the arugula/butternut squash/quinoa base was mixed with sauteed apricots and dates and topped with slivered almonds.  The dressing consisted primarily of vinegar, which sadly stripped a lot of the sweetness from the fruit while the heat of the salad caused the arugula to become soggy and stringy.  The smear of smoky paprika yogurt was similar to that served beneath the spinach croquette, but I wasn't sure how to incorporate it into the salad.  The portion size was also questionable- something that seems to be a common theme in Yelp reviews.  I would recommend the Roasted Beet Salad instead, a much more generous pile of thickly sliced, multi-colored beets, fresh arugula, and crumbled feta.

1/4 sized salad?
Souvlakia skewers of chicken, pork, or vegetables are also available for $3.  The veggie skewer contained a few tender cherry tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onion, all with a nice chargrilled appearance.

Our waiter offered to give us some time before our entrees came out, which was a nice change from the typical rushed dining experience.  My rather light appetizer had me anticipating my entree- the Pastitsio ($15), essentially a fancy mac and cheese with the addition of ground beef and a few tomatoes.  The pasta is long and tubular, super smooth with a nice bite.  A bechamel and breadcrumb topping is insanely rich, and the whole mess is cheesy and salty- heavy winter comfort food at its finest.  I would have appreciated a few more tomatoes to lighten it and provide a bit of a contrast to all that cheese and meat- towards the end, I just couldn't continue to barrage my palate with such intensity, and this isn't even a huge dish.

A complemented her fried app with a lighter entree- the tourlou ($13), a vegetarian stew of zucchini, large white beans, okra, and greens in a thin tomato broth, topped with a poached egg.  Very simple- I thought the flavors were a little bland, and A thought it was missing an herbal element- but a decent option for those looking for a meat-free or healthier meal.

The bifteki burger ($13) also made its way to our table- a thick, feta stuffed beef patty served on a brioche bun with a little scoop of a simple tomato salad.  Overly salted "oregano" fries were a bit stingy with their namesake herb.  The chicken entree- consisting of a spice-rubbed chicken breast and a few pieces of cauliflower- seemed over-priced at $17.

A & I split a dessert, choosing the quintessential Greek baklava ($8). Layers of thin phyllo dough and honey encased finely chopped and sugar-drenched walnuts.  I prefer the layers of baklava to soften and meld together, but the phyllo was extra crispy, the bottom layer a dark brown with hints of burnt sugar.  The whole thing was also overly sweet and heavy on the cinnamon.  We definitely enjoyed the small scoop of house-made fig ice cream, complete with large chunks of the chewy fruit.

The whole meal had an overall effect of "hit or miss"- a few disappointments (and some pricing/portion issues) were scattered among a few well-executed, unique renditions of traditional Greek dishes.  I really enjoyed the environment and the dining experience as a whole- instead of cramming in as many diners as possible, the well-spaced tables kept noise levels down to a perfectly reasonable chatter.  Despite the few downsides to the food, I certainly left with a positive attitude that would encourage me to return.

Opa  <-- Annoying website warning.
1311 Sansom Street

1 comment:

  1. DAMN....You WEREN'T kidding. That website is probably the most annoying website I've ever seen.