In the foodie world, fickle customers are continually searching for “the next big thing.” But many don’t realize it’s still residing in Chestnut Hill. This version of Mica is an intimate, low-key farm-to-table gem run by chef Yianni Arhontoulis. His fans—mostly in-the-know neighbors—can no longer keep this sensational sleeper all to themselves.
A former sous chef at Conshohocken’s renowned Blackfish, Arhontoulis was mentored there by Chip Roman, who initially opened Mica in 2011. But the concept proved overly ambitious—and too expensive for his customers. So the James Beard-nominated Roman offered his protégé the chance to take over the cozy spot in September 2016.
Gazing out from Mica’s wide front window, patrons enjoy a view of the twinkling trees and cheery shops along cobblestoned Germantown Avenue. The décor within is subtle and homey, with creamy linens, backlit wood panels, and a candle-lined fireplace. A 10-seat back room offers a snug second dining space.
The boyishly handsome 30-year-old Arhontoulis has sensibly recalibrated Mica. The original restaurant’s liquor license has been exchanged for a BYOB policy, which translates to lower menu prices. There’s a nightly à la carte menu, a $49 four-course tasting menu on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the chef’s six-course “Let Us Cook for You” menu for $69 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Beet salad with whipped goat cheese, orange and pistachio.
Tempting starters included five plump West Coast oysters filled with mushroom mignonette slicked with an herbaceous basil oil floater, puffy smoked cod beignets with a malty cream dipping sauce, and a simple charred broccoli rabe dabbed with zesty romesco paste. The oysters were offered compliments of the chef, as he occasionally sends out a free course to enhance his guests’ experiences.
Entrées excelled, too. Our juicy chicken came with ethereal whipped potatoes atop a shimmering veneer of Madeira wine. In another well-constructed dish, sweet diver scallops paired perfectly with woodsy fresh-picked chanterelles.
Mica’s East Coast oysters with mushroom mignonette.
Albacore tuna tartare.
Along with his able sous chef, Cody Garber, Arhontoulis also creates Mica’s desserts. The fried churros with cinnamon sage were ideal for dipping in our coffee, and the classic chocolate mousse—with salted caramel, candied peanuts, roasted peanut oil and chocolate chips—was well worth the diet-busting splurge.
Mica is the restaurant you may not know about yet—but you should. Arhontoulis’ globally inspired, skillfully prepared repertoire is impressive, and the easygoing, attentive and proficient staff enhances the experience. I can confidently foresee a slew of James Beard nominations in this masterful chef’s not-too-distant future.
8609 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, (267) 335-3512, www.micarestaurant.com.