Thursday, March 6, 2008


824 S. 8th St., Philadelphia, 215.629.4980

James landed at #6 on Philly Mag's 50 Best Restaurants of 2007, and Food and Wine voted the risotta alla Kristina one of 10 Best Restaurant Dishes of 2007. When you read all the accolades, you'll know you simply can't go wrong. But, I'll tell you about our experience anyway because, well, you never know.

Our group of six arrived uncharacteristically late. Rather, we arrived in tiers--10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 40 minutes late--prompting the manager to make us aware of the group with reservations after us. Apparently, James does not prefer parties larger than four, but there is one group table and we were sitting at it. So much for a relaxed meal with all eyes on us.

Promptly after we listened to the Specials, expertly recited by our server (but, way too complicated to repeat here), and navigated the wine list, the appetizers arrived. Fortunately, we weren't moved through our meal at light speed as anticipated; everything was paced appropriately. Guess the other large party cancelled?

Our good friend, John, offered me $100 to try the crispy sweetbreads, ‘sauerkraut’ and mustard ($16), but when I found out I had to eat ALL of it, I chickened out. Animal organs are worth more, don't you think? I opted for the sauteed sea scallop with belgian endive compote and gorgonzola butter ($12). I will point out that it is ONE scallop, but a perfect one. In fact, I was able to share my ONE scallop and it was voted the best appetizer at our table. So, I don't know what the editors at Food and Wine are thinking when they had that risotta - which was pretty darn delicious, too.
My friends will have to comment here. I know they had the langostino tempura with whipped ricotta, grapefruit and black walnut ($18). Again, just one, and really good. And, something with oxtail....

For my entree, I had the olive oil poached Scottish Salmon with fricassee of porcini, chestnut and brussels sprouts ($26). Normally, I'm not drawn to brussel sprouts, and I almost didn't choose this dish because of them. But, for brussel sprouts, they were actually pretty good. Small and a little nutty. Kind of like me! Anyway, the Salmon was amazing. AMAZING! I'm pretty comfortable saying I've never had salmon like this before. It literally melted in your mouth. But, it was so rich I couldn't even finish it, and portions weren't extra large.

I know the others had red curry braised wild pink snapper with mustard greens & mussel-potato saute ($27). Scrumptious. And the four story hill farms poularde (that's chicken) with spinach, porcini mushrooms and apple-infused pan sauce ($26). This entree was voted Best of Philly 2007. And, hopefully, they'll comment here about what they liked.

Overall, it was an upscale, casually elegant dining experience. The staff was incredibly professional and friendly. The food is obviously fresh and top notch. I dare you to find something wrong.

Read other reviews: Craig LaBan,,
Photos by Jason Varney and Michael Persico.


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