Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ocean Pacific Grille Brings Elevated Filipino Cuisine to the Mainstream

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting up with my fellow San Diego Filipino Blogger Network friends to experience my first upscale Filipino-inspired menu brought to you by Brian Norris and Chef Charles Andres at Ocean Pacific Grille in the Gaslamp District in Downtown San Diego.
My husband and I are avid watchers of "Bizarre Foods" with Andrew Zimmern and I distinctly remember him mentioning that Filipino food was going to be the next big thing years ago.  I think that time has come.

When you first walk in, you see this beautiful expansive bar featuring glossy polished wood.
There nestled into the bar's background was this first nod to the Filipino culture, a giant wooden spoon and fork set that is common decor found in typical Filipino household kitchens. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw it!
We walked past the wine room into a separate dining area.  This room was also beautifully paneled with elaborate floor work, interesting lights and a open chef's counter seating area that allows diners to directly view live kitchen artistry.
I knew this place was elevated when warm towels were delivered to the table. It was a feeling of "you better get ready, because this is going to be something different!"

We started off with cocktails and the OPGtini was definitely my favorite. Not too sweet, and mildly fruity, it was very good!
Then the food started to arrive!  We tried Chef Charles' own lumpia! Masarap!
Then, the Filipino Tocino Toast.  Tocino, cured sweet ham, is a favorite breakfast food typically eaten with garlic fried rice and an over easy egg. The tocino was layered atop burrata cheese which was spread on thick toast with a cranberry balsamic reduction, slow roasted tomatoes and green herbs sprinkled on top. Just tasting this had me thinking, I need to take the hubby here to try this!  Chef Charles let us know that he cures his own tocino and says that since they print their own menus in house he can pretty much create a new dish on the fly based on what looks fresh in the markets each morning. I let him know that this is one dish he cannot take off the rotation for awhile, its probably going to become a signature staple on the menu! Warning, you better order two of these because one is just not enough!
We also tried the Crispy Skin Sea Bass served in a tamarind tomato broth, a flavor profile akin to sinigang!  Chef Charles mentioned that he wanted to infuse familiar flavors of the food he grew up with but with modern innovation.
I had to pace myself because OPG was very generous with their tasting portions, I can't even imagine what the real serving size would be like. And though I was near capacity, this next dish had me scraping the bottom of the bowl.  My favorite entree was the Crispy Pork Belly served with Ginger Coconut Risotto, a tribute to "lechon" and "arrozcaldo." Again, OPG left me with another OMG moment. So sarap!
For dessert we tasted the Yema Cake and the Chocolate Passion Fruit Dome.  I am usually a cake fan, but the chocolate won me over that night. That Passion Fruit sauce was to die for.

The restaurant is beautiful. Brian and Charles put some of their own elbow grease and "blood, sweat and tears" into this place to get it ready and it truly is a showpiece.  The service and hospitality were on point, but as it should be, the food was the star! This is a perfect place to celebrate those special occasions! I've made a note to try the oven-roasted bone marrow, the pork belly bao buns and the whole steamed branzino for my next visit with the family! For those who are not familiar with Filipino cuisine, this is a great place to try it out! And for those of you who are, come and taste what OPG has to offer! Ocean Pacific Grille is located at 531 F Street in downtown San Diego.

Thanks to Ocean Pacific Grille for hosting the San Diego Filipino Blogger Network!   I wish you much success in bringing Filipino cuisine to the mainstream and will definitely be back! 

Disclosure: I was treated to a sample tasting menu in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

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