Saturday, August 23, 2008

Review: Tio Pepe's

Northeast Philly has a host of Portuguese and Brazilian restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores that go generally unnoticed by the center city crowd.  P, my in-laws, and I ventured up there tonight to check out Tio Pepe, a Portuguese restaurant that has gotten decent reviews.  

The restaurant is upstairs above a bar, with a nice atmosphere including dark wooden ceiling beams, Portuguese tile paintings, and, more surprisingly, small scale lampposts scattered in the dining room. The servers, one of whom I suspect was an owner, were attentive and accommodating.  

The Rissios de Camarao, shrimp cakes,  were more like empanadas, which were different then what we were expecting but very tasty with a creamy filling with big chunks of shrimp.

Flaming Awesomeness

The grilled chorizo came out literally on fire, which was awesome.  There are not enough dishes that involve flames, as far as I am concerned.  The host handled the flaming meat for us and kindly sliced it up. The chorizo was moist and very flavorful, not greasy, and had a wonderful char from the fire.  It was a huge link, and I didn't think there was any way we would eat it all, but we took care of it without a problem.

The entrees arrived and the portions were huge.  My father-in-law's pallea could have served the four of us alone.  Alongside the entrees, we recieved a bowl of saffron rice and plates of salad which were nicely dressed with olive oil and lemon.  

P ordered the bitoque, steak toped with a fried egg (this is beating a dead horse but, yes, it was better with the egg on top!).  This came with homemade potato chips.  This was very good, but the steak was ordered medium rare and was definitely cooked medium if not medium well.

Rissios de Camarao

My father-in-law's Paelha a Marinheria, a seafood paella, was, as I said, huge.  My mother-in-law and I both ordered variations of mixed seafood in sauce, she, however was served a dish with seafood and pork and chicken.  It was good, but not what she had ordered.  The mussels and clams were huge in the seafood dishes and prepared well. The shrimp and lobster, while good, seemed to be cooked, again, longer then I cared for.  These are ingredients that take impeccable timing to be perfect, and I don't feel they achieved it. 


Overall, the food was solid, but I felt that all the entrees lacked a depth of flavor and richness that I expected.  The portions are extremely generous and the service good, but the appetizers raised my expectations and I felt the meal went downhill from there.

Paelha de Marinheria

Now, there is one part of the meal that I am unsure about.  Immediately, the entree Acorda De Marisco caught my eye, described as "a traditional alentejo "dry soup" consisting of hearty mix of shrimp, clams mussels scallops and cubed portuguese bread flavored with olive oil garlic and cilantro." I ordered it.  The host/owner, who took our order told me to order something else, because, "you have to be portuguese to like it." He stressed that he "wanted me to be satisfied" I did order something else, but I feel conflicted.  I appreciated his desire to please his customer, but I came for Portuguese food.  Italians have many peasant soups with old bread, I love those.  Maybe I should have just insisted he serve it to me.  I think if that ever happens again, I will.

Tio Pepe serves solid food in a pleasant atmosphere.  If you're in the area, check it out, but it's not worth a special trip.

Tio Pepe
6618 Castor Ave - At Fanshawe St
Philadelphia, PA 19149
215 742-4775

Cafe Restaurant Tio Pepe II on Urbanspoon


Marni said...

that flaming chorizo is frightening and mesmerizing at the same time. it is enough to make a vegan want to cry: you killed it, you cooked it, must you prolong the agony by setting it alight?
just kidding!

Kristen said...

How cool is that flaming dish? Wow!

JoLi said...


I just moved to Philadelphia and am living in Center City. I was wondering if you could please tell me where I could find these Portuguese/Brazilian groceries/bakeries. Thank you!

conkyfilms said...

Welcome to Philadelphia, JoLi! Unfortunately, you won't find many Brazilian or Portuguese restaurants or markets close to Center City, unless you count Fogo de Chão. There is more of a concentration in Northeast Philly, where you'll find places like Picanha Grill, an excellent (and very affordable!) churrascaria. From driving around up there, there's also an assortment of small Brazilian grocery stores along Castor Avenue, though I haven't personally shopped at any of them. Hope this helps and good luck!