824 S 8th St, Philadelphia, PA | Directions 1914739.938877 -75.156334
Monday To Thursday From 05:00 PM To 10:00 PM Friday To Saturday From 05:00 PM To 11:00 PM
Neighborhoods: South Philadelphia, Bella Vista/ Southwark
Disappointed – We ate here for our anniversary and was expecting alot after perusing through the menu and reading reviews. Bottom line is that the food is good, but nothing that made us feel "wow, that was good". Out of 10, plating 8, food 7, originality 6. Overall, was a bit overpriced for the quality of food. We read that the flavors were complex, but we found them good, but nothing special. We had the herb crusted snails, duck ragu (the best thing we had), I had the cod (bland), and my wife had the chicken poularde. Dessert: apple turnover (yummy), the bacon ice cream was...unusual...didn't really work for me...couldn't figure out what it really tasted like. Won't really be coming back here again, as there are so many other good Philly restaurants that we haven't checked out yet and are worth going to for special occasion dining.
wanted to stop to eat after dinner – We dined here with my friend and his wife for his birthday . I expected a fine dining experience and I agree that I did receive a fine dining experience but the portions were absurdly and ridiculously small (I put this in quick in case you're just skimming reviews, please read on for the rest of the experience - some of it good). Our drinks were very overpriced - $12 for a Hendricks gin martini ( this restaurant is not in NY, not even downtown Philly - and I'm sure the lease doesn't justify the cost) that tasted good served at the right temp with small shavings of ice floating on top that quickly melted. The style of the menu is designed such that one needs to order 3 courses. This is not an issue in itself . However, the main course cost is not adjusted for this fact but the course size is, creating the main problem with this eatery.
I skipped the first course (these would be very small appetizers, and had I added one to my meal it would not have impacted the amazingly small amount of food we received) due to sticker shock and chose the stinging nettle tortelli as a first course ( at their suggestion this should be a 2nd course), this was fantastic and I would like to have it again though they did something strange to the texture of the garbanzo beans (maybe roasted) that made them very hard.
The pasta was al dente and the nettle stuffing was very tender with a soft spinach flavor, the bagna cauda (fish roe) added a nice dimension to the nettle and left me wanting more.
I ordered the lamb dish as the main course, it was cooked a proper medium rare but I only received 3 small medallions placed over a few drab uninteresting small greenish beans. It looked very lonely on the plate next to approximately 5 matchsticks (the size of actual matchsticks) of zucchini. For $34, it was truly disappointing, it did not taste bad but there was nothing extra ordinary about this lamb, and to compensate for the lack of original flavor I think at least another medallion was in order, and maybe a more substantial side. I've honestly grilled up better tasting lamb on my back grill!
My wife had the poached halibut and it was fantastic- paired with the hearts of palm but again the portion was very small----my wife is a very small person and does not eat very much, she never finishes her meals at restaurants. She finished this one, and after leaving the restaurant stated she was still hungry, after dropping our friends off we ended up stopping for food on the drive home.
The desert was very good, we ordered and shared the rhubarb parfait----worth trying and beautifully presented.
All in all, the place was worth being disappointed about. I am sure that I've had better fine dining experiences with more more realistic prices and more sufficient portion sizes, and I'm sure the chef has too which leaves me all the more bewildered. One of our party actually joked about getting cheese steaks on the way home.
Restaurants however, are like gambling - you win some, you lose some, and in this case I lost $200 (my share of the tab) and remained hungry throughout the remainder of the evening. Had I or my wife walked away satiated for a few hours this review would have been quite different.
So go ahead ,if you want to, try it. --Go for it but maybe eat something before you go. You won't have that expectation/desire to be less hungry after you eat , if you're not hungry when you start. By all means, eating before going here will not spoil the dinner, this restaurant is more like a place to experience tastes, it's not really a place to eat for nourishment. Food has truly entered the realm of art at James on 8th, it is just unfortunate that if we were looking at a venn diagram of art and practicality, this restaurant would not be part of the set of restaurants that were both artful and practical.
Great space, good food, SMALL portions – Let me start by saying that I was a bit skeptical of going here after reading other reviews, but went due to a birthday dinner. Upon entering we were greated by a warm environment which was very inviting. The staff were friendly and I noticed no snootiness, as others have mentioned. When we got our menus our waiter literally went over every dish, including specific ingredients in each. Now I know some people may enjoy this however I dont. I can read and if I have a question I'll ask. So their menu says Tues are 1/2 off cocktails, I asked which drinks this included I was told its only in the lounge. Hm, ok but perhaps you should put that on there. I got a "blue and green" martini which was belevedere with blue cheese stuffed olives. Ok lets get this straight, no martini should cost $14, especially in South Philly, this is not Manhattan! We were encouraged to have a 3 course meal but that certaintly was not going to happen for me simply due to their prices. After seeing other guests plates and upon receiving my own it was clear the prices were way off when compared to the portions. I started with the duck tagliatelle which I was told was their only dish that hadnt been changed since they opened. Ok now I have really high expectations and unfortunately it just didnt live up. The menu stated it had orange and chocolate however you couldnt taste either. The dish was so rich and it craved citrus badly. It wasnt bad by all means, in fact it was quite good but the orange and chocolate were more of a garnish than anything. I moved onto my entre which was poached halibut with an apple scented sauce ($26) Ok the fish was good, but not great and very small. There was a potato on the plate which was as big as a childs fist and was hard. Luckily me and my party all shared so let me just tell you whats worth getting. The raviolo, sweetbreads, the chicken (its amazing). Overall good exp, the food was good, just not great for a bill of $400.
Best romantic date spot by far! – Walked in and from the beginning the decor was Super Chic! The food was AMAZING, there was a great wine selection, and the staff was superb. Although the only draw back was that the appetizers were small in portion, so be aware.
I cant be 100% about the bill, as I was on a date, but I know from what I seen on the menu, the prices are a bit higher than the average place.
I wanted to like this place. – My wife and I recently went to dinner here for a birthday celebration. As the title states, I really really wanted to like this place. When we first walked in we thought the hype was legitimate: a beautiful looking bar, an exceptionally friendly host and hostess, an immaculate and spacious dining area. The service, while somewhat slow, was still far above average. Our waiter was very nice and helped us pick out a nice bottle of wine from a pretty extensive list (a little red heavy for the height of summer, but still plenty of options). However atmosphere, service, and drinks can only take you so far. After all, the point of dining out is to ultimately eat! I will get to prices and portion size in a second, but I should start by saying that the food was just not that good. As appetizers my wife and I got a tuna dish and a beet dish with goat cheese. Both were bland and flavorless. Salt might have helped ~ but of course, this was not available on the table (a pet peeve of mine). An hour later our entrees arrived - a chicken dish for her and the lamb for myself. Her chicken was the best thing we ordered. It had a nicely seared and crispy outside with perfectly moist chicken on the inside. Nevertheless, the dish had its drawbacks, as it was filled with a stuffing that neither of us could identify because it tasted like dry cardboard. I didn't even finish my lamb, which is amazing considering how small of a dish it was. It was WAY TOO thick. I ordered it medium rare, but the outside was more like medium well and the inside was completely rare. It was presented on a bed of flavorless beans, I think. This brings me to portion size and price. Our meal, with tip, came to over $200. Yes, we had a bottle of wine, but it was the cheapest one on the list. And we left feeling hungry. For this amount of money, we could have eaten at some pretty fantastic places in Philadelphia. I wish them the best but this place was just a huge disappointment.
Best Public Relations firm in Philadelphia – The night was filled with anticipation as my wife and I headed to the popular James restaurant in South Philly. After reading about this place in Philly Mag and being excited to try another Top 50 restaurant we decided to take the plunge and enjoy the experience. As we walked in we admired the architecture and the ambience. Simply stated it was quite beautiful. We were seated promptly and our server immediately came by to ask how he could help. Although quick, their ability to interact with the servers was stifiled by their lack of personality. A dining experience should be filled with laughter and good conversation, not simply a plate brought to your table at your command. To begin the night we tried James' cocktail specials. Flavorless and expensive. We moved on to the wine by the glass and were once again disappointed by the choice. At the beginning of the meal we informed our server that my wife was pregnant could not have raw food. Lucky for us 5 minutes later they brought our a free tasting of scallop ceviche, followed by the raw scallop appetizer. Although slightly cooked by the citrus we were still surprised that they did not listen to our information. Next was the famous duck pasta. I understand sticking with what has made you famous but this was July. Although we were satisfied with the dish we would hope the chef could adjust to the seasons and offer lighter fare. Our entrees were the tasteless lamb and flavorless dorado. I am known to always finish my meal but specifically saved room to have a snack at home. I have never done this in my life and that should tell you how unsatisfied we were. It is a rare occurrence for us to skip dessert but we decided against and further trial and error. Although I wish them the best the experience did not live up to their reputation, at all.
Exceeded High Expectations – I've read all of the reviews on James here and they're decidedly mixed. So, let's get this out of the way first. They're expensive. In fact, they were trying to charge $140 for the cote de boeuf (for 2) last night. Aside from that, wines by the glass were $9-$15, appetizers topped out at $17, and entrees were $36 and under. Portions? We thought they were fine. Not huge, but not tiny either. We didn't leave feeling stuffed, but who wants to?
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I have to say that the ambiance and food were of the highest quality. The wine list was eclectic and fun to explore. The sommelier was helpful, but not overbearing. My wife ordered a glass of Prosecco at 5:30. We heard the "pop" of a new bottled being opened. No left over wine from the night before!
We had an excellent time. We had an appetizer, pasta course, entree, and dessert. All were outstanding. My wife had an issue with the duck pasta (long story; the food was fine, it was her) and we switched dishes. The waiter noticed and we assured him it was fine. Despite that, he gave us a free trio of ice creams along with our desserts (these were excellent, and not to be missed). I've been in far "fancier" places that haven't handled real problems with that much class!!!
We would happily bring guests back to James. Innovative menu, nice setting, professional staff (thanks, Jim). Bring your wallet and enjoy a lovely evening out.
Overrated and VERY Average, Left Unsatisifed – This was the most expensive "average tasting" meal that I have ever eaten. I ate there last night with my husband after much anticipation and left feeling unsatisfied. Nothing was bad, per se, but nothing stood out as beind or memorable either. My husband ordered there strawberry lemonade drink and it was lacking in any definitive flavor. The wine by the glass after that was expensive and average. We ordered a total of 5 plates ( the waiter suggested 3 per person, but 5 for the 2 of us was more than enough). We started with the sweetbreads wrapped in zuchinni blossoms and the lightly seared sea scallops. Both dished lacked character and depth. We moved onto the duck tagliatelli. It was the best dish out of the five, well cooked and flavored, but best saved as a winter dish because it is rich. For entrees we had the dourade and the lamb. The lamb was cut so thick that the inside was extremely chewy because I think at that thickness it can't cook properly. The peas that came with it had no sweetness or flavor, even though they were fresh peas, not frozen. The dourade was cooked well, crispy skin, sauce was ok, but the wilted butter lettuce and warm cucumber that it came with uninspired and flavorless. On the whole, the staff was competent but cold, barely cracking a smile. Dinner came to a grand total of $160 without tip. For that kind of money and less I could have had a better and more memorable meal elsewhere.
VERY OVERRATED – This reastaurant is over-priced, pretentious and just not that good. The portion size is laughable relative to their prices and the menu is anemic. I would not recommend this place to anyone. The food itself was good enough but for what you pay, there are far too many other restaurants in the city to waste your time on James.
Pleasant Surpise in Spite of Loud Foursome Next to US – Was taken there by my gf for my birthday March 29th having read the reviews. As we concluded our meal we commented on what a pleasant surprise it was and how the portions were NOT puny. We did find that the two of us were very far away when dining due to the "long" table. It made it difficult to feel any spacial intimacy with the person who was taking me out. The people next to us were incredibly loud to the point that sometime I could only hear my gf's lips move and not hear what she said. She was nice enough to deliver a cake to the restaurant earlier in the day to be given to me at the end of the meal and they charged a 14 dollar cutting fee. I found that a bit steep. We lucked out and found street parking
That being said let's get to the strengths. We decided to have two appetizers, share a pasta and then two entrees and did not drink alcohol that night.The Sunchoke soup was a light cream soup which was a nice start as we passed it back and forth. the Sea Scallop was just that ONE sea scallop but easy to cut into two and delicious. the Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu was a wonderful combination of flavors and perhaps the highlight of the night. My gf had the Red Curry Snapper and she with he distinguishing palate was very impressed that it was made just right. She commented that the fact that a mussel had sand in it suggested that the Mullusk was dead before it was cooked based on the sand which should have not been there. I had the Poularde and if you just consider it a fattened chicken...it was truly and surpisingly amazing. The portion was more than ample! It was really a big surprise.
I found the pace to be perfect, the manager and waiter very interested in us having a good time. I expected to find a snooty place with microscopic sized dishes, but in fact had a great birthday dinner. It was hard to be mad at the 14 dollar cake cutting fee given the whirlwind of tastes we had just cherished.
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