When I came across an article, shared by several of my social media friends, by San Diego Eater entitled "Ocean Pacific Grille Intros Modern Filipino Food to the Gaslamp", I knew instantly it was a restaurant MUST. First because it is a business highlighting Filipino culture through cuisine which I believe is important to share with the mainstream, but also because I love Filipino food! Yes, I'm a bit biased since I am Filipino - but hey, I love my people!
I was delighted to hear Ocean Pacific Grille would host SDFBN's first official meet up!
The owners Brian Norris and Executive Chef Charles Andres welcomed SDFBN on a fine sunny San Diego afternoon and explained the background of the restaurant, the inspiration behind each of the dishes, and the concept for the overall restaurant design.
Chef Andres' inspiration for the menu items pulls from the Filipino heritage and traditional Filipino cuisine. It is his hope, and mine as well, that Filipino food will gain mainstream popularity as other Asian cuisines has been able to do.
All of the dishes we tried had very familiar Filipino flavors. I found myself thinking of family dishes, family events, or even specific family members as I was tasting the dishes. The flavors invoked feelings of home and familiarity, but in a new and fresh perspective.
For starters we had:
The Adobo Style Baby Back Ribs had a tangy and rich flavor, which is typical of Filipino Adobo. This dish wanted me to ask for a nice steaming bowl of rice!
Pork and Shrimp Lumpia served with a spicy vinegar which is a favorite of mine! The warm crunch of the lumpia with the tart spice of the vinegar is one of my favorite Filipino culinary sensations!
French Fries with Banana Ketchup made from tomatoes, bananas, garlic, and other yummy goodness. This banana ketchup was spicier than the ones I grew up with, but still very delicious.
Lastly, the Filipino Tocino Toast was a combination of flavors that made my mouth and tummy do the happy dance. The salted pork tocino and creamy burrata cheese on top of toast was so yum. This dish is a perfect example of the familiar Filipino flavors yet presented in a new way. I have to say, this was my favorite appetizer here!
Chef Charles treated us to two on his favorite main dishes on the menu:
The crispy skin sea bass sat atop a broth similar to the Filipino sinigang tamarind soup, all with it's familiar veggies of eggplant, bok choy, potato, and string beans. I couldn't help but slurp the broth like I do with sinigang, it was very good.
Next was the Crispy Pork Belly on top of Ginger Coconut Risotto. This was my favorite main dish! The pork belly reminded me of the Filipino Lechon Kawali and the risotto was a cross between the Filipino Arroz Caldo and Ginataan dishes. The pork belly was every thing yummy pork belly is - crispy meat and the warmth of the fatty bits. The risotto with the ginger coconut flavors blew my mind. I love Arroz Caldo and Ginataan dishes with my Filipino palate and I love risotto with my Italian palate. Putting the two together, again, made my mouth and tummy do the happy dance.
A huge thank you to Brian and Chef Charles for a great time at Ocean Pacific Grille! SDFBN sends our best wishes for a successful grand opening on June 25th!
Visit their website http://www.oceanpacificgrille.com/ for your reservations and other happenings!