Monday, September 19, 2011


Rumor has it that Estia serves the best Greek food in the city. Estia, as it calls itself, is an “upscale Greek restaurant” and the décor certainly confirms that. Jerusalem marble, white washed wall and a cozy indoor courtyard all add to the illusion of being transported to the Greek isles.

Rumor also has it that they are the best place to go for fresh, simply prepared fish. Estia is proud of their fish, and they make sure no one forgets it. Their display of fish, shipped in daily from the Mediterranean, is placed for all to see.

I’m a bit dubious of any fish served in Philadelphia. As a Northwest native and the granddaughter of a fisherman, I’m used to fresh Dungeness crab and wild Alaskan salmon, seafood that packs a punch. For me, Atlantic varieties have always paled in comparison. I was interested in seeing if Estia would make me change my mind.

We ordered from the Restaurant week menu, a three-course meal for the fixed price of $35. I dived into Estia’s seafood offerings right away and ordered the grilled octopus for my first course. The octopus was spot-on. It was perfectly salted, and the grill gave it a heavenly smoky taste. Octopus has a tendency of turning into rubber- so chewy that your jaw gets a workout. Estia’s octopus managed to avoid that fate. It had just the right amount of chewiness and, for an octopus, was almost tender. The sliced onions it was served on, however, was a disaster. I don’t particularly enjoy eating raw onions, especially not spicy ones. I ended up avoiding them, since the uncomfortable raw onion burn I kept getting was interfering with my enjoyment of the octopus.

I will add that my nibbles of my neighbor’s spanakopita, or spinach pie, were incredible. I like spanakopita to focus on the spinach, not the feta, which is exactly what this one did. The addition of leeks was a nice touch, adding a deep umami flavor.

Next up, the main course. Of course, I ordered fish. I chose the tsipoura, known as “Royal Dorado” in English, a supposedly extremely moist but mild-flavored fish. My tsipoura was served per usual at Estia- charcoal grilled, butterflied and served drizzled with a lemon and caper sauce. And no wonder they serve their fish this way, it works. My filet was juicy and delicate and had that wonderful taste of straight-from-the-sea fresh fish. The lemon and caper sauce was a perfect complement without masking the fish in too much flavor. Finally, the grill caused the outside skin to become crisp. The contrast between the snap of the skin and the tender inside was perfect. As picky as I am about fish, Estia’s definitely got my approval.

We moved onto dessert, a choice between baklava (Estia is a Greek restaurant, after all) and galactobourico, as stated on the menu “a semolina custard wrapped in phyllo dough and served with orange and lemon zest syrup.” I’m a fan of trying new things, so I went for the galactobourico, but I was quite disappointed. The best part about the dessert was that it wasn’t too sweet, as so many others are. However, there also wasn’t anything special going on. It was dense and, perhaps due to the syrup, I found the phyllo dough bitter. I certainly wouldn’t order the galactobourico again if I came back.

Go to Estia for their fresh fish and Greek offerings. Skip dessert and stroll along Avenue of the Arts, stopping at wherever strikes your fancy. That is a recipe for a fine evening.

-Elliott Brooks

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