Situated across the street from Philly AIDS Thrift @ Giovanni’s Room, Pinefish is really giving off an Antiques Row vibe.
The comfortable and retro psychedelic aesthetic comes across more like a hookah lounge than a seafood restaurant but it works, whether one is there for an informal happy hour for $1 oysters and clams or for a full dinner in the form of Pinefish’s three- or four-course prix-fixe winter lobster menu.
The small plates show off a lot of charm and technique. On the cold side, the oysters lemon salsa ($3.25 each) are as bright and refreshing as a raw oyster can be. The romaine hearts ($9) are served amid a decadent and generously dressed Caesar salad adorned with slivers of anchovy and fried oyster croutons.
On the hot side of the small-plates menu, the fried cauliflower ($7) was surprisingly delightful (considering cauliflower in any form usually isn’t our thing), but the crispy texture and the dressing of pine nuts, raisins and anchovies really elevated the dish. The fried oysters ($9) were lightly fried, allowing the flavor and freshness of the oysters to outshine the fluffy batter coating. The lobster bisque ($7) was served up thick and steaming, topped with lobster roe and perfect for a cold winter’s night.
Pinefish has one of the best octopus dishes ($13); it is sous-vide before it is perfectly seasoned and roasted, making it fork-tender and melt in your mouth. The pan-seared salmon ($10) had perfectly crispy skin and was tender and flaky underneath, sitting on a bed of steamed spinach and a rich Parmesan cream. The sliced sirloin steak ($15) was equally well thought-out, expertly done, tender and well-rounded with a red wine, shallot and shiitake mushroom reduction.
Pinefish has a comfortable and laidback vibe but its talent for serving up interesting seafood dishes is serious. If you are looking for a restaurant to set the appropriate mood for a night out, make a reservation at Pinefish.