Friday, September 26, 2008


Dave's Take:

Jose Garces has done everything in his power to make me not like Distrito but I just can't do it.

Jess put it perfectly. Continental Midtown and El Vez had a steamy interlude one night and out popped Distrito. I was surprised to see it wasn't Steven Star. It had all the annoying traits like an abnormal amount of hostesses that do nothing (thank god they're attractive) and a very pre-fab, chain looking interior that's trying too hard to be FUN. Absolutely did not share any of the classy and enjoyable aspects of Amada or Tinto.

Now I know this is an attempt to celebrate the street food and culture of Mexico City and it supposed to be a fun place and located near a college campus, blah, blah blah, but at my 3rd "enjoyment" of Sweet Caroline sung in Spanish by the lone roaming mariachi singer, I almost couldn't take it anymore (you can also enjoy My heart will go on, Hotel California and other "hits" multiple times during your dinner).

On to the food. It was great with one exception- the Camerones Ceviche. This was shrimp in a martini glass covered with a tomato sauce/salsa that tasted like cheap store bought salsa (the generic one without real veggies). It was very disappointing. The other Ceviche, the Atun, was awesome! Thin Tuna slices in a sweet and tangy coconut sauce with a hint of spice and some lime sorbet to tart'n it up. Very tasty.

Now, Tapas-style food is hard to write about because you get so much but luckily, its easy to enjoy. I'll concentrate on some highlights. The Bone Marrow- came out last and was a tasty treat. Marrow roasted in the bone served with accoutrements that included a Bacon Marmalade that I could have just eaten on its own. This is a sinful dish that is not American Heart approved, but it did win mine. Not as good as Ansil's (one of the best things I have ever tasted), but not a bad alternative. Huaraches is apparently Spanish for pizza, or flat-bread or something like that. Before I knew that, I decided to order the Guisados Huarache because it had short rib in the description. It was very good. Tender short rib with a BBQ type sauce that was rich, salty, smoky and overall fantastic. I also order the Tamales. These were good but were overcrowded by the rest. Steamed corn Tamale with a cubed pork sauce that was eaten quickly but not discussed about much. Special shout-out to the Crab special Jess got but I'll let her go on about that.

You can skip dessert, the Churros were good but probably not worth the calories that could have been consumed on another tasty Tapas. Same goes for the molten chocolate cake. It was good, but not great.

This will be a very successful endeavor. The Penn crowd is certain to flock like 2nd graders to recess and you can bet it will be their favorite place for mommy & daddy to pay. If I'm in the area, I'll be back but probably may not venture out to U-City just for a trip here.
Food gets a 3 out of 4 masked wrestlers. Overall experience notches it down to 2.75.

Jess' Take:

Since Dave was so thorough I’ll stick to the good & the bad (I think the ugly was sufficiently covered). The good: bone marrow… mmmm… Served in the bone, the experience of scooping it out is almost as enjoyable as the rich flavor. The portion size was sufficient for three people and we had a bit of a fish & loaves experience… it seemed to never end. When I asked for a doggie bag for the bones the server didn’t even flinch. Benson was one happy dog when we got home.

Another good: the rabbit mole. This dish was not the typical pulled rabbit that we’re so used to seeing, but actual pieces of rabbit meat, which needed to be cut with a fork and knife. Also very tasty and flavorful – although not a huge portion size.

Our server told us that we would be full with 2-3 plates per person but she obviously didn’t know who she was dealing with. We were satisfied after three plates/person, but could have easily ordered more. And should have – which brings me to the bad: dessert could definitely have been skipped. For all the effort and care put into each of our dinner plates, our dessert was disappointing. Maybe “bad” is a little harsh, so let’s just go with “not worth it.”

Over all a good food experience – the atmosphere is a different story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 happy dogs.

Wade's Take:

My eyebrow raises in concern. I’m having trouble focusing on what I eat. I’m sitting across the table from my fellow Philly Food Bloggers at Distrito, the latest in a chain of restaurants produced by Jose Garces. You may have heard of him; he’s the guy that’s created the masterpieces of Amada and Tinto. Both of these places are built on the concept of those teeny little taste sensations, tapas.

But my eyebrow still raises because I can’t pay enough attention to the details of what I’m tasting. I’m over-stimulated by Distrito’s colorful ambiance. It’s a fun joint, with lots of loud chatter and spastic energy. There’s a mariachi guitar player in the corner, belting out Spanish love songs… er, wait… nevermind. He just started singing N’Sync’s “This I Promise You,” mariachi style. I try to focus back on my food and what topical conversation we’re having. It’s hard. Distrito’s spaz-tastic nature is a trigger point for anyone’s latent ADHD.

But then I remember that if I have one skill in life, it’s eating. And that is what I’m there to do. We dive through round after round of Distrito’s tapas. There was a hamachi taco that was standard fare but overall unremarkable. Then there were the camarones ceviche… tsp tsp tsp… what’s that taste? Ah yes, ketchupy tomato paste with (clearly once frozen) shrimp, avocado, and plantain chips. More courses ensued, but some days later, they clearly aren’t that memorable.

I do recall the Tuetano. Incredible. Long hunks of beef leg bone roasted hot. What comes inside? My favorite. Bone marrow so soft you can scoop it out with a spoon. It’s accompanied by tortillas, bacon marmalade (heavenly), onion, jalapeno and cilantro. It was a solid dish. Ansill’s bone marrow still wins the ribbon, but Distrito buts up a good fight.

Dessert was molten chocolate cake – standard fare, served with avocado cream and lime sorbet. These were odd pairing that didn’t tango well in my mouth. We also ordered the churros with coffee ice cream and hot chocolate. This pairing was illustrious. Fried dough, chocolate and ice cream… how could you go wrong?

Beyond the wall of Mexican wrestler masks, past the mini car table in the lobby and further than the swing seats and glowing specials signs… there’s a restaurant in the midst of the Distrito circus somewhere. It may just not be worth finding.

Flash forward to one or two years from now. I’ll be sitting at a table at Distrito. It’ll be the first time I’ve been back since the original Philly Food Blog visit in September of 2008. I’ll be taking part in some birthday celebration, networking event or some such festive endeavor where the atmosphere matters more than the food. That’s why you go back to Distrito… not the food, but the spaz.

Two out of four repetitious mariachi guitarists.

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