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: Bella Vista/ Southwark, South Philadelphia
Unbelievable experience!!! – So I'm a bit slow in writing this well-deserved review since I actually ate there around the middle of December. I went with two other friends for reservations at 7pm and from the minute we walked in the door we had an unbelievable experience. We were met by the hostess who took our coats and immediately sat us. Our friendly waitress came over to us within a few minutes and welcomed us to their restaurant and explained the menu. She then brought out the chef's welcome appetizer (sorry, I don't know the 'true' name for this) but my one friend doesn't care for fish so he gave it to me without making a scene. Within 3 minutes our waitress came out of no where with a completely different offering for him that he absolutely enjoyed (and this guy is tough...he's a simple meat and potato kind of guy) because she noticed he didn't eat it. The whole night was like that, the staff was friendly and there only when you needed them but they were very knowledgeable about everything, the meals were fantastic and the deserts were great! I paid a little less than what I did for a meal at Morimoto's but I'll never go back to Morimoto's and I'll DEFINITELY be going back to James!
Good Food, But Small Portions – The restaurant is very nice in terms of decor. We throughly enjoyed our meal, the quality was very good, bordering on excellent, however the portions were extremely small. The bar is also very nice and there are good selections of wine. The barman was very helpful, Theo, and offered us a taste of several selections.
A good restaurant with high quality food, but again very small portions.
We aren't cool enough for James – I also live in the neighborhood and have been to James a few times. The food is truly good, we loved our mushroom soup and fish dishes and the pear martini was terrific. But this is a place for beautiful people. I dress nicely but I'm no cover girl. The last time I went, my friend and I, both in our early 40s, were completely ignored as the waitstaff and the owner's wife doted on young folk. I haven't felt that way since high school. I'd rather spend my money someplace where I felt welcomed, and at least acknowledged.
Great Portions .... if You're in Utero! – When I stepped into James I was extremely excited ... the restaurant is beautifully spacious with tasteful modern decor. In spite of the friendly staff, the service was so slow -- we had an 8:00 reservation, and did not finish until nearly 10:00 -- and that was without ordering dessert. While the food was generally good (I would recommend the tagliatelle with duck ragu); our $128 meal left me STARVING -- a $22 dish of risotto was enough for two people to get two tablespoons each. It felt like a kitchen-tasting at full-price. I would recommend the bar/lounge area (they have a nice wine list) -- but please have a snack before you go!
Thank goodness we decided to make up our own minds and try this place! – My wife and I had a reservation here for our tenth anniversary, and we almost cancelled because of all the bad reviews on Citysearch -- but a friend with a very experienced palate thought it was great, and we decided to take the chance. It was EXCELLENT.
First, let me preface by saying that we live in NYC, so we have a lot to choose from, and we eat out a lot and have been exposed to enough good stuff to have some basis for comparison.
The ambience was great -- the music was loud enough to enjoy and to drown out some other people's conversations, but not so loud that it encroached upon our own conversation. Everyone was friendly, and everyone -- from the co-owner hostess to the bartender to the waitress to the sommelier -- wished us a happy anniversary. Obviously they pay attention to details. I've seen some comments in the other reviews about over-attentiveness and pompousness, but I didn't feel smothered or intimidated. Maybe I'm just not nervous and insecure about eating in a place where they know more about food preparation and service than I do -- in fact, I kind of like being doted on instead of having to do the dishes like every other night.
The food was the best part. The portions are small in the sense that a normal person can eat an appetizer, entree, and dessert, without needing a doggie bag. My wife's halibut entree was the best fish dish she can recall having, and she thought the risotto appetizer and homemade ice cream dessert were unusually good. My pear-gorgonzola semifreddo was the best dessert I can recall ever having, and my raviolo appetizer and sirloin entree were delicious. Everything was cooked and presented well.
I'm not really sure where all the bad reviews came from, and I would almost suspect a campaign by competing restaurants upset at losing some of their customers, but it could just be bad taste. I'm glad I found out for myself, I thought it was just great, and I'll be back.
Disappointed – I went to James on my birthday, and it ,quite frankly, broke my heart that my boyfriend spent this much on boring and mediocre food. Our waiter, while very nice, was a bit of an airhead and not very professional or informed for the caliber of restaurant it wants to be. We did the tasting menu, and we never got our first course until 55 minutes after being seated. We sat at 7:30 and left at 11:15. I love long meals, if I am enjoying them. Two of the courses, back to back, had the same sauce (or no discernable difference), and that is about all I can recall from the meal. Everything was tasteless and oddly looked the same in color. The atmosphere is very inviting and the servers are friendly, but at $120 a person, not including wine, I need to leave impressed and definitely not still hungry. It reminded me of the old movie scene at an art gallery where people stand around staring at painting pretending it is cutting edge, and when the camera pans to it, it is a blank canvas. I wanted to like this place, but the chef and owner should read the reviews, because I think they deliver a consistent message: Step up your game!
Not impressed... – I went here with high expectations that were not met. The staff was helpful but slightly on the pompous side. The food was nothing special and if anything, lacked flavor. While the portion sizes were fine (though I did not leave feeling satisfied) I do feel that the prices were a bit outrageous. I know that the ingredients they used were very fresh however I dont think the taste was so incredible that it warranted these prices. I have literally eaten everywhere in Philadelphia as well as NYC and feel that this place is not worth the money. The decor is beautiful but the crowd was boring and the restaurant was very empty for a weekend. I would much prefer a BYO like Melograno or August. Dont waste your time or money here....
An Absolute Gem!!!! – A wonderful experience from start to finish. The restaurant itself has a very intimate feel to it and is perfect for a romantic night out. Service was outstanding and our server Beth had fantasic recommendations. Kristina Burke has done a masterful job of training her staff to fully understand the menu and provide top-notch service and advice. The wine list is superb and features some real winners for under $50.00. As for the food, it is as close to authentic Italian cooking as you will find in this city, including Marc Vetri's restaurants. The shortbreads, pappardelle, scallops and poularde were prepared to perfection and each course was a perfect complement to the other. I've read some reviews about portion sizes being less than generous but I completely disagree with that notion. The portions were more than adequate as long as you listen to the advice of the Server and order correctly.
If you're looking for an all-out Italian feast for cheap prices try Maggiano's. However, if you're looking to find out what real Italian food tastes like look no further than James. It is a treasured addition to the Philadelphia dining scene.
The illusion they try to create that this place is so hip, happening and packed every night is just that, an illusion – We live in the neighborhood so when we saw the new place we were thrilled. It was nice looking (they were still working on it) and it replaced that eye sore Michaels so anything was an improvement. We liked the sign a lot too--it just looked nice and we need more nice restaurants. Well, it was their first week or two. We called and asked to make a ressie. They could not seat us till 9. We said ok. We happened to get there a little earlier,to have a drink at the bar. Well, when we walked in, we were told that they did not have their liquor license yet (it should be in a few days........) and the place was EMPTY. First of all, we did not need to get a 9pm reservation because the place was empty. We felt like they were trying to construct this idea of them being so new and hip that they are packed every night.... And when the hostess told us about the liquor license we were livid because we had wines at home we could have brought with us. How about the hostess telling people when they call that "we don't have our liquor license yet but you can bring your own".................we were ticked. We later read Craig La Ban's review and frankly I don't love his reviews--I used to like them a lot more. Well, the place got a good review from him and we decided that the place was new and new places deserve another chance--it is hard to open a place and get it all right you know? So we had the chance to go there for the AIDS dining out night--we had the ressie with another couple and we decided to cancel. We just had a bad feeling--I am just not interested in giving them a chance. Reading other reviews I can see that we are not alone. I wish them luck and if behaving as they do makes them feel more important and glamorous be my guest. I prefer to go to a place where I know I will get great service and great food at a reasonable price. We love to eat out and we don't really care about the price as long as it is worth it in all aspects.
Make areservation now! – James is the best restaurant I've been to in Philadelphia, hands down. It's not cheap and it's not quick, but if you can appreciate excellent cuisine paired with amazing wines, and have an evening to spend with friends and family, you won't be disappointed. Believe me, there's a reason this place is getting so much good press!
The atmosphere is subdued-cool, and the tables are comfortable and spaced apart nicely. The service isn't overbearing, and is certainly at a relaxed pace, but I like it like that. We've been several times and always enjoyed the complimentary amuse we were given -- last time was a pickled whitefish served with apple and radish, and it was delicious!
The soups are wonderful, the poulard is the best chicken in Philly, and if lamb is on the menu please call me as I would move heaven and earth to get some. The dessert menu is small but always has something new and interesting.
To sum up, I've never seen another restaurant that so often challenges my view of what tastes go with what, and yet always delivers and always leaves me happy. They are doing very cool, very fun things at James, and it's no wonder that it is becoming pretty crowded these days (The local celebs, including local pro athletes, are starting to clue into this place). Make a reservation now, and go have one of the best meals you've ever enjoyed!
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