Friday, April 27, 2007
Our most recent dining adventure, and it most certainly was an adventure (explanation to come) was to the Queen's Village neighborhood of Philadlephia to Dimitri's on the corner of 3rd and Catharine. We were inspired by the late but much welcomed arrival of spring weather and decided last minute to seek out an appropriate meal. First thought, like most, was for fish/seafood. Recently someone had mentioned Dimitri's to us so we grabbed our insulated wine tote and a bottle of white from the chiller since it's a BYOB. Of course, when dining in Philadelphia, in order to save big BYOB's are the obvious choice. Dimitri's labels itself a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant, perfect for a balmy evening. We had been forewarned that they do not accept reservations and were prepared for a wait, but as luck would have it they seated us right away despite a seemingly packed dining room. Parking in the vicinity is near impossible so if you're willing to walk a few blocks, there are some lots and meters closer to South Street. They have a single dining room and it could easily be described as cramped, but we'd rather say charming. Along with the tight space comes the noise - it was hard to hear yourself speak at times and while this may turn away some we were more concerned with their reputation for good seafood and a reasonable pricepoint.
Our waitress was friendly but not overly so which was most likely due to the chaos going on around her (a table of 4 just behind us were really enjoying the BYO option!) The same person who had mentioned Dimitri's to us had also recommended we get the grilled octopus so we shared it to start off. It was grilled to perfection, tender and sweet, which can be difficult as octopus gets very dry and fishy when overdone. The octopus was served in it's marinade which was a red wine vinegar concoction along with kalamata olives and pepperoncini. Two of us were barely able to finish this large helping. Dimitri's always has a grilled whole fish on special and on this particular night it was striped bass, so we didn't hesitate. We also ordered another special which was tilapia baked in a simple white wine and butter sauce and seasoned with paprika. The striped bass was simply prepared and delicious - very moist and the meat easily pulled away from the skin and bones. We recommend this item if you want something very fresh with no frills. The chefs let the fresh ingredients speak for themselves and it was much appreciated. It's not for someone who likes heavily seasoned fish with elaborate sauces and reductions. Our second entree, the Tilapia was also perfect in its simplicity - flaky, moist flesh and a light and not overpowering sauce that was in accord. Despite our satisfaction we feel that it did not necessarily distinguish itself as an item to be listed as a "special." It didn't exactly blow us away, but absolutely did not disappoint either.
So after enjoying ourselves with fresh seafood and a beautiful spring evening the check arrived and the meal came to just over $50 which was perfect except for the fact that Dimitri's only accepts CASH. Now, in fairness to the proprietors we knew this, but in our haste to satiate our appetites we forgot to stop at the ATM beforehand despite having a specific conversation not to forget the dough. Anyway, no big deal, the waitress tells us there's a Wawa with an ATM at 2nd and Christian. So Jocelyn elects to stay behind and finish our wine (a 2005 dry resling from Alsace which is IDEAL for grilled fish) and Zach willingly accepts his responsibility of finding the ATM. Except when Zach arrives at the aforementioned Wawa and the ATM is "Temporarily Out of Service." With the cashier at Wawa being reluctant to even answer the question, "where is the next closest ATM?" he sets out on an aimless trek. Nothing in sight around Washington Avenue... No ATM at the bar across the street... There's another Wawa in Headhouse Square just north of South Street... EIGHT BLOCKS north of Washington!!! Well, at least this was a chance to walk off some of a gut-bursting meal. Half an hour later the bill was paid and we were on our way home.
Our overall impression of Dimitri's can be summed up in one word which we've already noted more than once - simple. And not in a negative connotation. Sometimes you just don't want overly elaborate ingredients or preparation techniques. You just need a lucid interpretation of a meal. And this is what Dimitri's specializes in. If you're looking for more, go elsewhere. For a relaxed, reliable, unpretentious alternative to the jet set crowds of Rittenhouse this should work just fine.
Tips: Go early, expect a wait, and learn from our mistake and bring plenty of cash! Also, utilize the waistaff and ask what's freshest that particular day.
Total Cost = about $56 with a 20% tip