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.
Pros: nice people and decor, comfortable seat
Cons: not enough food -- way too expensive