Restaurant Review: Opa

We interrupt our tour of France to bring you a restaurant review.

When I was in college, I spent two years working for Victoria’s Secret. In that time, I learned more than I ever though I would know about underwear. I got hit on by many a creepy man who came in to buy stuff for the girlfriend and/or wife who was “just my size.” I learned all about the best ways to shoplift (a duffle bag lined with duct tape, in case you were wondering, is a good way to avoid detection. Running into the store, grabbing a whole table full of merchandise, and running out is less subtle, although some brave souls have done it). During this time, I also made a bunch of awesome friends. A few of us try to get together once a month for dinner, if our crazy schedules allow it.

This past week, my friend Rhonda and I tried Opa, which bills itself as a modern Greek restaurant. It’s located in the Midtown Village section of Center City–roughly between 11th and Broad Streets and Spruce and Market Streets.  In recent years, this formerly sketchy area has undergone something of a Renaissance with the opening of boutiques, restaurants (including two of my favorites, Lolita and Barbuzzo), and upscale apartments.

I’m not sure what, if anything, was in the space before Opa moved in. But, when you step inside, it easy to forget that you are on Sansom Street in Philadelphia, and not in Greece. The restaurant is decorated in cool blues and greens, with white accents, and light wood furniture. The bar in the center is made out of river rocks and has a birch canopy above it. The lighting was subtle, so that the whole place had a warm, soft glow. It’s a very natural, relaxed, and welcoming place. (Sorry for the lack of photographic evidence in this post, by the way. I’m all snapped out from France.)

On the recommendation of our server, Rhonda and I each ordered the Antho— a cocktail made with cucumber vodka, lemon and dill. It was so refreshing—the perfect summer drink. The menu is comprised of small plates (mezedes), as well as larger, entrée sized plates. Everything sounded delicious, and Rhonda and I decided to split a few of the mezedes.

We started off with three of the mezedes, and then decided to forgo entrees and ordered two more. Here’s what we had:

1. Trio of dips—Hummus, tzatziki, and tirokafteri (spicy feta cheese dip), served with the softest, warmest pita I’ve ever had, as well as olives, cucumbers, and pepper strips. We enjoyed all three. The hummus in particular was really good (I’ve never really met a hummus I didn’t like)—it was kind of smoky instead of garlicky.

2. Keftedes—Greek meatballs. I’ve had these made with lamb before, but Opa’s were made with veal. They had nice hint of mint, but could have maybe used a little bit more bread crumbs or something to keep them from falling apart when they were lifted out of their cast-iron dish. They were served with a chunky, ouzo tomato sauce.

3. Zimi—baked pita filled with feta cheese. It’s kind of like and empanada, and was the only thing we weren’t really blown away by. The pita was dry and the whole thing kind of lacked flavor. We both kind of dipped it in the delicious tomato sauce from the keftedes, but that didn’t really seem to help.

4. Gyros—these where in a miniature presentation, kind of like sliders. I think this might have been my favorite thing. The yummy pita made another appearance and the lamb was cooked to a perfect medium rare. There was just the right amount of tzatziki sauce for the small size of this gyro.

5. Saganaki—fried kaseri cheese. I think that this is usually the dish that’s often doused with ouzo and set on fire tableside. They did not do this at Opa. Probably a good thing, for this small space. It wasn’t overly boozy, which was fine by me. And, Rhonda and I ate the whole thing, lamenting the whole time that we should really lay off the cheese. We just couldn’t help it.

The portions are more than enough to share—we certainly did not leave hungry (and we didn’t have room for dessert!). Next time I go back though, I will definitely try one of the larger plates. If we had opted for entrees on this visit, I would have either chosen the striped bass with garbanzo bean soufflé or the bifteki, a feta stuffed burger.

Be sure to put Opa on your list of places to try this summer. Try to go with a group if you can, so you can try a bunch of different things on the menu, like Rhonda and I did. Prices are pretty reasonable too—mezedes range from $6 to $12, and the larger plates from $11 to $24. Even with drinks, it’s not bad for a night out in the city.

Before we even left Opa, we were working out the details for our next two outings this summer—brunch next month, and dinner in August. That’s how much we love to eat. Stay tuned to find out where we end up (I know you can hardly contain your excitement!).

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