What is Pinefish? Well, it’s actually not a fish. It is a spectacular seafood-centric restaurant located on the corner of 12th & Pine in the Washington Square West neighborhood of Philadelphia.
Pinefish opened last summer to much fanfare; partly due to an initial affiliation with acclaimed Chef David Ansill, but also because of an ambitious and discerning menu that’s certainly seafood-driven, but offers much, much more. Owner Peter Dissin has considerable restaurant experience under his belt; only someone with his pedigree in the business could run such a casually refined restaurant with such finesse.
The juxtaposition of Pinefish’s plush, yet chillaxed aesthetic impresses the most. From the moment you walk in the door, you will be enthralled by the environment. The decor has been dubbed “boho chic,” but there’s a distinct rustic elegance imbued throughout offering a pleasurable vibe overall. From colorful and whimsical fabrics, to reclaimed wood tables, and dramatic lighting fixtures, the space exudes comfort and funky-cool style.
I fell in love with the restaurant even before I put one bite in my mouth!
I was happy as a clam to discover a concise, approachable list of libations for every preference. For the beer lover, there is a selection of draft beer that changes frequently, as well as bottled and canned beer. For the wine lover, a respectable array of whites and reds are available and one rose wine, too. Finally, several cocktails round out the bar menu. I decided to start with a whiskey cocktail. Our visit happen to fall on St. Patrick’s Day so I felt it was appropriate. 😉
The lone whiskey cocktail on the menu is the Best Damn Sour ($14), containing Makers Mark, Amaretto, Marmalade, House Made Sour, and Egg Whites. A damn fine sour indeed – very easy to drink! Hubby choose a glass of the Argiolas Perdera ($14), a tantalizingly rich red wine from Sardinia.
If you’ve been following along on this blog for a while, you’ll know that we love our oysters. Chances are if they are on the menu, we will order them. We were promised that they had some special oysters available that evening. We were treated to two each of three varieties (from top to bottom): Duxbury oysters (Massachusetts), Beavertail oysters (Rhode Island), and James River oysters (Virginia). Oddly enough, our favorites were exactly in that order. The Duxbury oysters were exquisite! Perfectly paired with a little mignonette and lemon juice. No need for cocktail or hot sauce. I could have eaten at least six of them myself easily.
Next, we tried the Salmon Tartare ($8), a lightly poached, sushi-grade salmon with black bean vinaigrette. A delicate, yet subtly flavorful dish to be sure. The crispy lotus root chips on top added a satisfyingly textural component that complemented the supple salmon of this small plate.
Like crab cakes? You’re going to love ’em at Pinefish. This Crab Cake ($9), featured on the small plates menu, is filled with jumbo lump crab meat, lightly fried, and served with a piquant sambal remoulade. Sambal is a lively chili-based sauce made with several ingredients (garlic, shallots, ginger, lime juice, etc). The sauce added brightness and gentle kick to the dish.
You know what I haven’t had in ages? Octopus! I recall that at some point I had a very tough, chewy piece of octopus and that likely turned me off. Thanks to Pinefish, I’m digging octopus again in a big way thanks to their sous-vide Octopus ($13). The fact that they are using the sous-vide method of cooking told me volumes about the sophistication level of their kitchen.
While cooking vacuum-sealed food at a slow, steady temperature has gained popularity in recent years (thanks to competition cooking shows), it’s still not very common in Philadelphia kitchens that I’m aware of. This should be the only way to cook octopus to perfection, in my humble opinion. After time in the immersion circulator was up, the octopus is freed from the bag, and thrown on the grill for a little charring action and extra flavor. Pinefish is achieving tender, flavorful octopus. If you were afraid to try it or have had rubbery octopus in the past, don’t hesitate to order this small plate.
At this point, we had already been charmed by the restaurant and the food, but I was ready for another cocktail. I just had to have the End of the Rainbow ($12) — yet another nod to the St. Paddy’s day holiday — made with Vodka, St. Elder Liquor, Ginger Beer, Cucumber, and Mint Leaves. So refreshing and palate-cleansing! 🍸
We weren’t done eating yet! Our next dish was another stunner, Garlic Shrimp ($11) served with a scrumptious garlic sauce and crusty bread. As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp. But with plates like this, I’m coming around big time. The garlic sauce was the star of the plate, though. Don’t be scared, it’s not an obnoxiously strong garlic at all. We loved dipping both the shrimp and the bread in the creamy sauce. I think we even licked the plate clean, but don’t let that get out. 😉
While we were eating the shrimp, Peter brought out a whole fish to show us. It wasn’t for us, but for another table. I’m glad he showed us because I had been wondering about it. They offer a $16 Whole Fish special on Wednesday evenings. It looked quite lovely and I would definitely return to try it!
Shut the front door on our next plate, the Seared Tuna & Foie Gras ($15) is a showstopper! Everything about this dish shouts sophistication and luxurious dining, yet this plate is only $15. That alone blows my mind. Not to mention how visually ravishing it is especially thanks to the watermelon radish and Luxardo cherry jus.
Doesn’t it just pop off the plate?! This is one of the most beautiful dishes we’ve ever had and, it tasted better than it looked if you can believe that. I almost can’t describe how delicious this was. My mind still can’t process it. 🤔
As if the previous plate wasn’t luxuriant enough, the Sliced USDA Prime Sirloin Steak ($15) sealed the deal. The portobello mushrooms on top were filler as far as I was concerned. All we needed was the perfectly sous-vide steak and that luscious red wine, shallot, garlic, and shitake reduction. Again, sous-vide is the way to go for cooking tough meats to get them immensely tender and juicy. I know what we’re asking for Christmas this year! 😉
I kind of wanted to keel over at this point or go take a nap in one of the high-back chairs, but Peter insisted we try their signature dish and still their most popular, Fried Cauliflower ($7) with anchovies, sultanas, and pine nuts. Cauliflower is on just about every menu these days. Most of the time restaurants are making them buffalo wing-style or otherwise slathering some heavy sauce on them to make them palatable for the general public. But it really doesn’t need all of that. A little salty anchovy, sweet sultanas (golden raisins) and crunchy pine nuts and call it a day. So glad he insisted. 🙂
What is dinner without a glass of good wine, right? I ended the evening with an amazing glass of Gueissard “Le Petit Gueissard” Rosé 2015 ($11). What can I say? I adore French rosé! Hubby had another glass of red – either the Pinot Noir or Cabernet. 🍷
Even after all we had eaten, I had to end on a sweet note. And how sweet it was! You haven’t lived until you’ve had a properly made semi-freddo. It is a semi-frozen dessert made with eggs, sugar and cream. We were lucky enough to be able to try a duo of creamy chocolate toffee and lemon semi-freddo. If they have this on the dessert menu, you have to get it. This is one of the best frozen desserts I’ve had in a long time. I typically stay away from dairy-based desserts due to lactose-intolerance, but it wasn’t going to stop me from trying this exceptional dessert. Totally worth it!
This beautiful restaurant has it all… ambiance, decor, outstanding food, and phenomenal service. Our server Lauren was the picture of professionalism every step of the way and super friendly too. Peter never misses a day either. He’s a very hands-on owner. He’s committed to making Pinefish a neighborhood restaurant that residents and visitors alike will come back to time and again. With the food they are putting out and the amazing specials they are offering; there is NO REASON not to visit. You will be enchanted just as we were. Make sure to visit soon and tell them Philly Grub sent you.
About those early week specials… starting at 6:30PM…
Half-Priced Burgers with Duck Fat Fries on Monday Nights (prices vary per burger)
Unlimited Cioppino $16 on Tuesday Nights
Whole Fish $16 on Wednesday Nights
Also, check out Happy Hour daily 4:30-6:30 including Saturday and Sunday!
Buck-A-Shuck Oysters & Clams
$5.00 Draft, Mojitos, Wine & Martinis
Small Plates $4.00 & $5.00
Again, NO REASON for you not to visit. 🙂
1138 Pine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
*Special thanks to Peter Dissin for having us and to Peter Breslow Consulting for arranging our visit. Our opinions are our own.
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.