Estia Restautant, Philadelphia, PA – A Review

by artfuldiner on October 11, 2023

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Opinion, Pennsylvania, Review, Wining and Dining

Estia Restaurant

1405-07 Locust Street

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

(215) 735-7700

Flagship of the Estia Group stable of Greek/Mediterranean eateries – which includes outposts in Radnor, PA, Marlton, NJ, and Naples, FL, as well as Estia Philly - Interiorseveral Pietro’s Coal Oven Pizzeria locations – the interior of Philadelphia’s Estia Restaurant resembles a cozy Greek taverna (pictured). The ambiance is unobtrusively rustic, the lighting subdued, and there’s a discreet hint of romance in the air. Stepping outside following your evening’s repast, you could very well expect to catch a glimpse of the Acropolis of Athens rather than the Academy of Music.

So much for atmosphere… Our visit to Estia Restaurant coincided not only with an afternoon orchestra concert at the Kimmel Center, but also Center City Restaurant Week. And during this time, Estia was offering a three-course dinner menu for $60.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity), which we planned to take advantage of… However, since the three-course theater menu contained more interesting choices and was $20.00 less per person, we decided to take that route (something to keep in mind should  you be contemplating a future visit).

But on to the food, which, unfortunately, was something of a mixed bag. To start things off, I choose the Horiatikiv (pictured) – which also carried a $5.00 Estia Philly - Greek Saladsupplement – a country Greek salad that is comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onions, feta, and olives (sans lettuce), splashed with a red wine vinaigrette. This was quite good. The tomatoes were, as promised, vine ripened. They reminded me of Jersey tomatoes in season. However, as I know I’ve mentioned on several occasions, the key to a great Greek salad lies in the dressing – the proper proportions of oil, vinegar, herbs, and other seasonings – and, in this case, the extraordinary red wine vinaigrette is enough to turn heads.

Conversely, my dining partner’s Spanokopita – spinach, leeks, scallions, and feta cheese baked in homemade phyllo dough – a traditional Greek appetizer that should have been right on the money, suffered from an excessively dry crust and flavorless interior.

Estia Philly - BaklavaDitto the Salted Caramel Baklava (pictured). In addition, the promised caramel sauce was conspicuous by its absence, and the presentation was hardly what one would call photogenic. As if to add insult to injury, there was a $2.00 supplemental charge for this dessert. My dining partner and I have tasted baklava in numerous Greek-Mediterranean establishments (both here and in Greece), and this bland-leading-the-bland variation on the theme certainly left a great deal to be desired.

When it came to ordering entrées, in a most unusual move, we both happened to choose the Moussaka.  This is Estia Philly - Moussakaa savory combination of cooked potatoes, tender eggplant, seasoned ground beef, a rich Kefalograviera béchamel, and splash of tomato sauce. And although this traditional Greek dish should have been a no-brainer, the kitchen somehow managed to muck up both orders. My dining companion’s (pictured) was nicely presented – but also a good deal less than lukewarm – and had to be sent back to be reheated. My presentation, while sporting the proper temperature, had obviously incurred significant structural damage, either during or immediately following the freefall to its final resting place.

Estia’s food can be quite good; in my humble opinion, however, not as good as it could be or should be… especially given the prices. The above-mentioned theater menu is something of a bargain, true. But, depending upon your gastronomic proclivities, ordering à la carte certainly has the potential for putting a major dent in your pocketbook. Take the Country Greek Salad pictured above, for example. It carries a $5.00 supplement as part of the theater menu. On the other hand, if ordered à la carte, it will set you back a cool twenty-dollar bill, which, to my way of thinking, is more than just a little over the top…

… Ditto the Estia Chips (pictured), another $20.00 a shot starter. These are lightly fried wafer-thin slices of eggplant & zucchini accompanied by a dollop of tzatziki – a blend of plain yogurt, cucumbers, olive oil, and garlic – that is perfect for dipping… No question, the Chips are simply irresistible. They are also, Estia Radnor - Estia Chipshowever, heinously overpriced, as it costs the restaurant a mere pittance to turn them out. Interestingly enough, both the Estia Chips and the aforementioned Country Greek Salad go for $12.00 during the restaurant’s “Happy Hour” (3:30 – 5:30 p.m. daily; at the bar and high-top tables only), which, from my point of view, is a good deal closer to what should be their actual price point. With regard to the Chips, an even better idea would be to serve them as an amuse-bouche, a complimentary gift from the chef, presented to all diners, including patrons sipping cocktails at the bar.

When it comes to entrée prices, the above-mentioned Moussaka ($26.00) and Pasta a la Grecca – rigatoni with oven-roasted tomato sauce, sautéed spinach and feta cheese – ($23.00) I consider quite reasonable. From there, however, you begin moving into the high-rent district: Halibut and Tuna go for $40.00: Lobster Linguini, $45.00; Chilean Sea Bass, $50.00; Lamb Shops, $52.00; topping out at $62.00 for Prime Filet Mignon. By the way, under the “Whole Fish Selections” that sweet & flaky Dover Sole will set you back $54.00 per pound; Jumbo African Prawns $55.00/lb.; and Langoustines $58.00/lb.

Estia’s recommended wines – particularly their Greek wines – have their own unique pricing peculiarities… The Argyros “Atlantis” Assyrtiko, for example. Atlantis AssyrtikoAssyrtiko wines are produced from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape, which is cultivated in some of the world’s oldest vineyards, dating back 3,500 years. The grape originated on the island of Santorini, but is now cultivated throughout Greece. In terms of quality, it is one of the most important native varietals. It produces mainly elegant and distinctive dry white wines, some of which are aged in oak. When I was in Athens two years ago, I did sample, on several occasions, the Estate Argyros Assyrtiko from Santorini… and it was utterly superb.

But while many Greek wines are of impeccable quality, they are still quite easy on the pocketbook. The average retail price for the above-mentioned Argyros “Atlantis” Assyrtiko, for instance, is a paltry $24.00… Which is why Estia’s price – $22.00 per glass/$85.00 per bottle is so outrageous.

… And the price tag placed on the Domaine Skouras Saint George Agiorgitiko is equally appalling. Of Greece’s more than 200 Agiorgitikoindigenous grape varieties, Agiorgitiko is the most widely planted and among the most commercially successful. It produces red wines that are bold, complex, and alive with dark fruit flavors. Sampled at both Estia and in Athens, this wine is supple & generous on the palate and beautifully balanced. The best part, though, is the price. The average retail price is $18.00; $18.99 if you’d like to take a short drive to Total Wine. Guess what it’s going for at Estia: $19.00 per glass/$76.00 per bottle.

Dining within restaurant precincts, you naturally expect a hefty mark-up on wine (and other alcoholic beverages)… But Estia truly pushes the envelope. Most people – even knowledgeable wine lovers – tend to be unfamiliar with Greek wines (with the possible exception of the infamous Retsina). So you would think the restaurant’s owners would make a special effort to acquaint diners with the wines of their homeland – especially those like the two classic vintages noted above – by making them more accessible pricewise. Instead, they go in exactly the opposite direction. Apart from one California Cab, the Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko are the most expensive wines on the restaurant’s menu. Additionally, during happy hour, when several wines are reduced in price to $8.00 per glass, there is not one Greek wine among them. Something here simply does not compute. And it certainly sends a message – and not a positive one – that I find it difficult to ignore.

Which leads me to the bottom line: underwhelming and overpriced… I will not be returning anytime soon.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!


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