July 14, 2011

Opa! Modern Greek Hits Philadelphia's Midtown Village

Opa was one the hottest new restaurant openings of 2011. Keenly placed just off the bustling 13th Street strip near Barbuzzo, Zavino, Sampan, and El Vez, Opa hit a jackpot on location, price and food.

We spent several days in Greece on our honeymoon, where we developed not only a love for Greek food but also for the atmosphere of the restaurants. The open air, earth tones and casual-but-chic feel in Santorini, Crete and Corfu were just as memorable as the great food.

Opa stirs up those memories with very large, open front windows leading into an uber-trendy, but natural setting. The bar area and one side wall are covered with horizontal birch branches, and then the rest of the small(ish) interior is covered with a blue ceiling, natural stone columns and funky hanging lights.

Bar stools line three sides of the bar so even though reservations were booked, we had no trouble getting a bar seat at 6:45 on a Friday night. It filled up pretty quickly after that, so we still recommend arriving early or aiming for a reservation. Full menu is available at the bar, where frankly we often enjoy sitting more anyway so we can socialize. We even had the chance to chat with George Tsouris, half of the brother/sister pair that owns Opa. A very down to earth guy, George said they always wanted a chance to bring their family's age-old recipes to the masses with a modern twist. He is in the grey button down in the center of the photo on the right below, chatting with Samuel Dalembert, formerly of the Philadelphia 76ers, who appeared to be getting take out.

Left side of the bar, dinner seating behind it
Front of the bar with branch covering above

Opa's menu has plenty of Mezedes (small plates) for everyone's tastes. We could have eaten them all, but settled on three. The Spread Pikilia is a solid choice for hummus lovers. You get a selection of hummus (very good), tzatziki (traditional), and tirokafteri (spicy, Bradd loved it!) along with vegetables and plenty of grilled pita. For two people it might be a little large. Watch out not to fill up on too much of the fantastically warm pita because you'll want to save your appetite for everything else.

Spread Pikilia

As lovers of all things fried and cheesy, we couldn't pass up the Saganaki. Opa makes it with seared kaseri cheese and metaxa, a blend of brandy and wine that definitely gives it a unique flavor from similar greek cheese apps we've had elsewhere. Worth it for cheese lovers.

Gyro sliders... how cute?!
As our last appetizer we tried the Gyros, which come out as three adorable little gyro sliders individually wrapped in paper (at right). Grilled lamb, yogurt sauce, cucumber, tomato and onion are stuffed into each gyro, making them look more like Greek pita tacos than anything else.

These little guys are a can't-miss at Opa. They are the perfect quick bar snack, or pre-dinner appetizer that still leaves you with room for entrees. If you're worried about how to divide three gyros among two people, don't worry, they cut in half pretty easily.

Speaking of entrees, it was really tough to decide. I imagine the Bifteki, a feta-stuffed, grass-fed burger is amazing, but that night I was drawn to the Chicken ($17) with lemon herb marinade, whole wheat couscous, green beans, and sun dried tomato vinaigrette. The meat was cooked perfectly and the skin would have sent chills down my skin-loving mother's spine. The sun dried tomato vinaigrette kept the whole dish nice and light - perfect for a hot summer night. There is a special place in my heart for great green beans too, and Opa found its way in.

Chicken entree

Bradd went for the Pastitsio, a semolina pasta with ground sirloin and b├ęchamel, a white sauce (although the sauce was red. Confused.) One great thing about sitting at the bar and chatting with other patrons is being able to get their recommendations. The nice guy next to us highly recommended the Pastitsio and ended up introducing us to George. He was right on with the entree. It was tasty, also light, and Bradd really liked it. At only $12, how could you not? Didn't get a pic of that one, sorry.

the Mauro with bourbon, lemon and fresh blueberries
I also have to give a shout out to my new favorite drink in Philly. Opa's specialty cocktail menu has nine options that all sound appetizing, but the Mauro officially displaced Zahav's Jerusalem Cocktail as my #1.

Now, even though I'm a whiskey girl, I still don't like overly strong drinks. But Opa's bartenders figure out a way to combine nothing but bourbon, lemon and seasonal berries to make a very easy-to-drink cocktail. Mine had blueberries, but the bartender said they just use whatever fruit is in the kitchen that day. Loved the way the drink was prepared, so I'd be willing to try it again with just about any other fruit.

The only thing I didn't care for at Opa was the Opa Martini. It's white wine, lemon and orange blossom. Not sure if I just got a bad pour, but it was basically watered-down wine. I'd skip it and go for the liquor drinks.

Take advantage of Philly's slightly slower summer months and hit up Opa before the reservations fill up in the Fall. It's a great, open air spot for dates, friends, dinner or just a few drinks at the bar. We're definitely heading back soon!

*Exciting update: Opa is debuting a lunch menu next week with FREE LUNCH items on July 18. Check out the menu and details at Midtown Lunch.

Follow Opa on Twitter @OpaPhiladelphia or "like" it on Facebook.

Opa on Urbanspoon


QVF said...

Your Bourbon-loving QVF MUST try that cocktail. We should have a drinks and apps date soon!

As soon as I get rid of these old people in my apartment...

Kristy said...

QVF: It's on. But you must wear that bright red lipstick.