2227 Pine St.
(215) 985-3680

I've never spent more than half an hour at Dmitri's without noticing the bartender, bartendress, host and hostess each hug at least two patrons. Multiple arms wrap around multiple others as if it were a cordial convention of cephalopods. And in a sense, it is.

Allow me first to discuss some general differences and similarities among cephalopods, squid, octopi and calamari, all of which must be devoured here.

- Calamari is actually the inky broth a frustrated squid secretes in order to place its foes in the double dark. The ink congeals almost instantly into a virtual squid-like shape which holds the enemy's attention while the real squid turns pale and jets away. I've observed certain jurists re-enact this very routine, using their robes as the diversion, but turning just as pale, when reversed by a unanimous decision of the Superior or Supreme Court.

As you know, calamari's most common "menu-meaning" is real squid as food, often as ringlets of varying widths, sauteed, fried, or as raw ingredients marinated in lime, as ceviche.

- The squid is a cephalopod, with a long, tapered body enveloping a slender chitinous support (removed for eating purposes), and a caudal fin on each side, as well as 10 pencil-thin arms. It's smooth body is plated in restaurants after having been sauteed or grilled. Most Italian eateries serve a bevy of one- to two-inch squid bodies as standard fare, while many Greek dining establishments serve a fuller-bodied squid, a size equal to that of a famous hollow Trojan horse. Dmitri's Grilled Squid entree ($13), for instance, is one of such Hellenic proportions, launching lips.

- An octopus is also a cephalopod, a mollusk with a heavy head that has eight muscular arms. Moreover, each arm is equipped with two rows of suckers, with no alternates. There are those lawyers who succor suckers, and others less succumbed by them, who decline grilled octopus appendages peremptorily as if they were the limbs of an octogenarian juror with psoriasis. Dmitri's Grilled Octopus appetizer ($8) is tenderized, oiled, dipped in wine vinegar, parsleyed, and then crisped to a char on an open grill. A call to arms.

One enters this neighborhood nook at the beginning of a long tappy's mahogany bar at left, with occasional tables-for-two-seating at right. Twenty yards ahead is an assortment of marble-topped eating tables lit by candles; an area sounding louder than it should. Rustic brown walls flicker, flaunting childlike drawings of octopi.

Sizzling sounds erupt from behind glass counters at the restaurant's northern extremity, where Chef Chong Xiong fishes for culinary compliments. Owner Dmitri Chimes' choice of chef in this open kitchen is brilliant. "Hua" Xiong does nothing less than repeatedly and reliably create repasts of miraculous Mediterranean modernity.

The Mediterranean Plate combination ($12) is the best starter for two, even if gluttonous. With doughy bread chunks, piles of pita and bowls of seasoned olive oil, this could be your main meal. It's difficult to imagine the melange of mounds of tarama salada, baba ghanoush, huge purplish beets, hummus, tzatziki and skordalia. Nibble, nuzzle, nudge, nosh, nip, nod, note and gnarl.

Your tongue whirls in frenzied felicity as tastes appear, disappear and reinvent themselves in calculated combinations. The beets add a brisk bite; the hummus provides a warm coating of garlic; and the ghanoush is redolent of grainy, gooey eggplant. There is no cheaper carnival ride on a cornucopia.

Grilled Vegetables ($7) brings a long bowl of slick blackened red and green peppers, cross-hatched onions, tomatoes and squash. Virgin olive oil trickles from every morsel lubricating one's mouth as if it were to eliminate squeaks. Instead your throat follows each swallow with a faint squeal.

Dmitri's entrees are so fresh and immense that no one leaves without tomorrow's lunch.

Bluefish Greek Style ($14) is a huge fillet of this thick velvety creature, immersed in tomatoes as bright red as poppies, and olives as meaty as a skirt steak. The fish is steaming, smelling sweet and wispy. A chunk collapses upon the slightest squeeze of palate, pulsating for a second or two as your heart races, then dissolves into a mist. You exhale a sea breeze.

Grilled Lamb ($13) could only be a better bargain if the waitstaff had sheared it and knitted you a sweater while its chops were being cooked. The lamb is molten pink at its center, turning browner toward the edges and dark at the bone. No need for fork and knife. The lamb-mignons separate at a quiver of teeth, causing a gush of juice that your tongue must shepherd.

If you have nothing else, try the Grilled Squid. Seven five-inch-long bodies appear among sides of escarole-oil-and-garlic and vegetable-mashed rice. Either the plate's design is too small, or the squid were engineered by Jules Verne. Your choice is to begin to eat the invertebrates, or to ask them to dance.

Obviously, you must cut them down to manageable size. Once accomplished, the squid slides toward your esophagus before you've removed the fork from between your cheeks. The taste is dusky and charred, altogether silkily marine.

An amber beer to wash down any remnants is a must.

I've never had dessert in the dozen times I've visited. Seedless grapes are offered gratis with your bill.


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back