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JAMES How Was It?

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Looking for your experiences with James, new on 8th St, just north of Christian. How was food, service? I am looking forward to my experience this coming Saturday, but am interested in arming myself with some experiential perspectives. Thanks.

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  1. I was at the opening party and the get together was laughable. Perhaps they'll improve. The invite only party had a cash bar and tiny glasses of big bottle (cheap wine) we're being handed out once an hour. I overheard the owner tell the bartended to "slow down" with the free wine! Appetizers given out were few a far between. Three tiny plates we offered to us during 2 hours. One (that was offered to us twice) looked like cat food (and I was told tasted like it). The other (a ravioli) was microscopic, and there was only one avaiable. Servers kept attempting to take drink orders for us from the bar, which was awkward. I suppose the owners told them they would be making money. I reccomend you read a post on another food board to get a sense of the "thriftiness" of this restauarant that I (hilariously) experienced.

    1. We thought it was wonderful. My friends said, "Now don't write about it on Chowhound - we don't want it to get impossible to get a reservation."
      Food was amazing. Small portions, but each bite was delicious. Service was fabulous. The place is beautiful - and comfortable.
      Not cheap, but really not bad for what you are getting, and definitely less than at Vetri, which is where the chef has been working.
      Hope you enjoy it as much - please report back!

      1. I had dinner there a week or two after they opened. Do NOT get the chef's tasting. We did, and to make a long story short, it fell way short of my expectations, and way WAY short of the price, which was $90 for seven courses (the price was not revealed until the bill arrived), without wine. That's Vetri money. The food was good, but only one dish out of the seven was fantastic, and I expect more than that for $90.

        The good news is that the regular menu is much more reasonable (I think $28 or $30 was the priciest entree), and the items on it that caught my eye did look good. Just don't get the chef's tasting.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Buckethead

          Well, I guess you'll never do another chef's tasting w/o learning the price first, eh?


          1. re: jwbausch

            That is true. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the regular menu prices were reasonable, so I was expecting more like $50 or maybe $60 per person at the most, not three times the price of the most expensive entree in the place. If I had known it was going to be $90, we could have assembled our own tasting menu from the regular menu items instead and we would have had money and food left over.

        2. We had been warned that the Chef's Tasting Menu was not the way to go.
          We each had an appetizer, then the four of us shared the 3 pastas on the menu. This was recommended by out waitress and it worked out very well.
          We each had an entree and shared some desserts. Actually, for my entree I had the squab appetizer, which I loved - small, but very delicious.
          By the way, we went there on the ecstatic recommendations of our friend's daughter and son-in-law, who are fussy eaters. We were not disappointed.

          1. We ate there last week after reading all the comments on Egullet -- so did not have the tasting menu. I don't remember the appetizers now, but they were very good. I had the scallops with cauliflower puree, which was absolutely delicious -- BUT -- only 2 scallops for $23! That's my idea of an appetizer portion, not an entree. My husband had the turbot wrapped in chard, which was also very good, but he thought there should have been something else on the plate besides the turbot and 2 little pieces of roasted potato. The dessert was also delicious.

            I sent James an email about the portions but have not received a response. We thought all the food was delicious but the portions of the main dishes were ridiculously small.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Beulah

              There are scallops and then there are scallops, but I have NEVER seen an entree with only 2 scallops. Even with those amazing large and high-grade scallops in many restaurants, I have seen at least 3 for an entree (and usually 5; chefs seem to like the placement of 5 on a plate).

            2. I should add one comment -
              We were there just before they got their liquor license. We were all drinking plenty of wine - our own. So our enjoyment was probably increased by all the good wine we were imbibing. And of course, that kept the price down.
              By the way, two of us ordered appetizers as our entree and it was no problem. This also kept the cost down. Some of the appetizers seemed as large as the entrees.

              1. Thanks for all the responses. From what I gather, the management is just cheap. This is not the only blog on which posters handed them a citation for miniscule portions. The un-grand opening party also souunds consistant with cheap management. However, I am hearing that there were no significant complaints about the quality of the food, along with some definate yeas. So am looking forward to Saturday night's dinner. Can't wait to try the squab. And I will avoid the scallops. Friends from NYC will be there with us for a non Philly perspective. Report to follow....

                1 Reply
                1. re: QV4ME

                  Hope I'm not too late -
                  My husband reminded me that the chicken he had as an entree was the best chicken he ever had - and he is an excellent cook. Reminded of us the guinea hen we used to order at Vetri, which wonderful flavor infused.
                  I look forward to your report!

                2. LOVED IT. Well, I can fully recommend James. It was a great experience. We had 9:00 reservations last night (2/3). We were promptly greeted with a welcoming smile and shown to our seats. As we sat down, i had to look around and notice the space. The exterior of the building doesn't do any justice to the interior which was warm, but at the same time totally sophisticated without being gimmicky or pretentious. Great lighting. Wait staff really nice, and very attentive. Water glass was never empty, and bread kept coming. Some cool drinks. I had the Prosecco + pomegranite which was perfect. Aslo interesting was the lavender and lychee Cosmo. They started us with a complimentary pate/toast which was excellent. A variety of appetizers including the squab (a bit under cooked for me) and the risotto... all a hit. Our entrees included the pork and the chicken, both of which were delicious. And the home made ice creams were yummy (try the cardomon + apricot). We were there for nearly 2 hours and had a great time. Only one minor bit of confusion: The server named several menu items that 'could be served as either an appetizer or entre', which we took to mean smaller size and price (than stated on the menu) for the appetizer version and larger portion and price (than stated on the menu) for the entre. It actually just meant same portion and price either way, so that the risotto ended up being a $20 appetizer, but the sweet potatoe-stuffed pasta turned out to be a $14 entre. So it all evened out in the end. We were just a bit confused, or inexperienced in ordering from a menu arranged as this one is, and this didn't detract from our experience at all (mentioned only to help others better understand how the menu works). And, the 'portion issue' cited by other bloggers was a non issue for us. We left quite full and satisfied despite not having the food spilling off our plates. So, when we left at nearly 11:00 p.m. there were still a number of tables dining, and there was actually a substantial bar crowd (really nice bar BTW). We will definitely be returning and no doubt may have found an additional neighborhood bar to drop in on on a more regular basis.

                  Good luck to James. Welcome to the neighborhood. And, no, I have nothing to do with the owners whatsoever, I just really liked it and hope they do well.

                  1. Thanks for your excellent review. You echo what we thought - we've found a treasure!

                    1. My reading the reviews as of now, of course:

                      A cheap owner, with rip off portions serving sublime food in a very special space that is well worth a visit because it is a treasure...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bobo

                        That is pretty funny, isn't it!

                        I often see opposite points of view on Chowhound.

                        If you read the Board consistently, you get to know whose opinions you generally agree with. You get to know . . .who wants large portions, who doesn't want it too noisy (me, for one), who prefers adventurous food, etc., etc.

                        That's why it's always good when there are many people commenting. Just one, and you may get stuck.

                        Last night, we ate at Divan, at 22nd and Carpenter. Our group of four really enjoyed our food and service and knew we would return. When I came home, I went to Chowhound's Search and found mixed opinions. So . . .the end result is, sometimes we have to decide for ourselves.

                        If you get to James, add your opinion to the mix!

                      2. I went to James about a week after it opened and when it did not have a liquor license. I had a gnocchi appetizer and the chicken and sat at the bar. The gnochhi took about 40min to appear and was nothing special. The chicken took equally long and also was nothing special. The owners/chef have pretensions at a higher level of N. Italian cuisine. I know Vetri and this is no Vetri.

                        1. Poor value and the establishment being just a little bit too slick on how to seperate maximum cash from the visit.

                          yes no ?

                          (Never been there but it's tempting based on the good reviews.)

                          1. Sylviag has hit the nail on the head. Dining is a very personal experience. We totally enjoyed ours, others felt ripped off. I was not expecting another Vetri, so I was not disappointed. We were a party of 4 with a final bill of $70/person. That included tax, tip, 1 or 2 drinks each, appetizer, entre, desert & coffee. A lot less than Verti. Not a bad deal in my opinion for good food, atmosphere, and service.

                            That's the whole reason for getting this thread going. To get a cross section of opinions. Thanks for sharing yours.

                            1. OK- so the portions were small but, for example, other restaurants would charge $36 an entree for the same entree James is charging $24 for (larger portion though. We appreciate that because it gave us a chance to try a lot of food. Even the quality of appetizers would be at least $3-5 more at other establishments. We loved the food and felt that this was one of the best restaurants in Philadelphia. Go in knowing that you need to order a lot of food though- we did appetizers, split a risotto course, entrees and dessert- and left pleasantly full- not feeling sick from eating too much but not hungry! I will write a full review of my meal soon, for we loved everything we ate!