Distrito has a great location in University City here in Philadelphia in a building with really neat brown, green and metal panel work on the outside. The bi-level interior has bright pink walls, some of which glow, and a netted wall filled with luchador masks all the way from the bottom of the first floor to the second floor ceiling by the stairs. There was a green VW bug in one corner containing a table and 4 happy customers. Some chairs upstairs were bench swings. The bathrooms had co-ed trough sinks. I can’t decide if it was loud and obnoxious or fun and carefree. Take your pick.

Blue Demon Mojito

Blue Demon Mojito

We started off with drinks in the bar. I, of course, had the blueberry mojito which did not disappoint. I also fussed with my camera to see if I could find the right color setting that would offset the pink glow in the room. Alas, there was no better option than to try my best and fiddle with the actual photos at home. Pinkish hue be damned! Shortly after, we sat down to a plate of warm roasted peanuts flavored with chili oil, cilantro and lime while we looked over the menu.

Shrimp ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

First we had the ceviche with shrimp, spicy tomato, avocado and plantain chips. What a way to start it off. The ceviche came in a margarita glass and the first thing I noticed, besides the glass, was the contrast of bright colours. Green avocado, red tomatoes, pink shrimp and yellow plantain chips presented like a cheerful cocktail. The flavor was outstanding. The deeper we got into it, the better it got! That’s rare with food. Usually the first bite is the best. The temperature was perfect–not cold enough to give you brain freeze but not warm enough to make you wonder if it’s supposed to be hot or cold. The shrimp tasted fresh, the tomatoes had the perfect amount of heat and the plantain chips brought a sweet crunch. However, the front runner was the avocado. It was mashed into the bottom of the margarita glass with lime juice and cilantro so it was like finding some guac that you could scoop up with little plantain chips. Second best dish we had during the night.

Los Hongos Huaraches

Los Hongos Huaraches

Then came los hongos huaraches, the Mexican version of flat bread pizza, featuring forest mushrooms over huitlacoche sauce covered in queso mixto. Sprinkled on top were the boy’s favorite, black truffles, and some interesting tasting corn shoots. I’ve never had corn shoots before. Verdict: tasty. If I see them at a farmer’s market, I will take some home and experiment. I ate one by itself and found the initial taste to be bitter like green grass but the aftertaste was sweet like corn. Shocking, I know! The dish itself, corn shoots included, was delicious. This was easily the third best dish of the night and a strong competitor for second. I suspect the boy may have liked this one the best. The entire combination was really great but the thing I liked most about it is that the mushrooms really stood out. I hoped they would because sometimes chefs/cooks take liberties with cheese and you can lose the flavor of something else. The mushrooms, forest and truffle, were the stars on the thin, crisp bread. Drunk with happiness, I noticed that my blueberry mojito had run out. I ordered a glass of the 2005 Jubileo Meritage from Guada Lupe, Mexico, because, to the best of my knowledge, I’d never had a Mexican pour before. It was just okay. I don’t know that I would buy a bottle, even if it were cheap, but it wasn’t horrible. It had a bright but heavy taste with a very fruity finish. I commented to the boy that it started off tasting like a Shriaz and ended like Welch’s grape juice.

Encarnacion Nachos Libres

Encarnacion Nachos Libres

Next up were the encarnacion nachos libres with skirt steak, refried beans and chile de arbol. The nachos were finished with queso mixto, cilantro and crema. I wanted these to be good and was really looking forward to them because they’d come recommended in Philly Mag’s review (below). For my first bite, I nibbled a piece of steak and fell in love. It was moist and had bangin’ flavor. I wanted to take the skirt steak home with me and call it my muse. So you can imagine my disappointment when I piled up my first chip and all of that flavor disappeared. I tried again (and again and again) to get the flavor back but it was gone. It was like having a crush on a really great guy only to find out he’s a bad kisser. The nachos were served in a small cast iron gratin-shaped dish that was very hot and held a lot of oil. That was a bit of a turn off for me. It’s too bad they were so heavy on the queso and crema because the steak under there is really, really great. As you can see from the photo, the nachos are practically unrecognizable. You can barely even spot a chip! To the upper left is a little pot of black beans and rice which were fantastic.

Enchilads de Cangrejo and Amarillo Mole

Amarillo Mole and Enchilads de Cangrejo

At this point our server brought us new plates. I became worried because I was already getting full! Shortly after the new plates and a water refill, the enchilads de cangrejo and mole arrived. The enchilada was stuffed with jumbo lump crab, poblano peppers and roasted corn. It was topped with salsa verde and a bit of crema. Delicious. I happily ate two more bites. The crab got a little lost in my first bite, where I ate a big piece of pepper but I found it in the second. The boy said it was lost for him the whole time and noted that it could have been chicken or any other fish in there and you’d never know. I’m inclined to agree for the most part. The amarillo mole with rabbit over white rice was completely underwhelming. The rabbit taste was lost to some fresh, bright pineapple. It just didn’t work. This dish had a strong Asian flair and not what I had expected at all. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great, either. I wouldn’t order that one again over everything else we’d had.

Kobe Beef Taco

Kobe Beef Taco

Last we got the kobe beef tacos, medium rare, with truffled potatoes, tomato-horseradish sauce, and Yukon fries. This was the best dish of the night, hands down. The truffled potatoes on top of the beef were fried to a tiny crisp (but not burned) and really complimented the buttery texture of the beef. The corn tortilla was just the right thickness to not get soggy and destroyed but not become one of the main flavors. This was very well done and I loved the presentation with the three-sectioned plate. Everything about it was simple and understated because the flavor was bold enough to speak for itself.

Thinking there was no way I could eat another bite, our waitress brough our dessert menu. Twist my rubber arm! We shared the churros. Four hot churros were delivered to our table with a shot glass full of iced coffee–I think they called it Mexican hot chocolate (which makes no sense). I took one bite of my churro and the boy knocked over the shot glass of iced coffee. Smooth move, Johnny Coolguy. A waiter came by and was totally cool about it. He joked with us, cleaned it up and whisked away our plate, promising a new one. I should have told him to stop the madness! But no, I remained silent as a new plate of churros was put down and proceeded to eat some more! Oy. They were so warm and delicious that I had no choice. I had to go on.

All things considered, this was a great meal. With drinks and tip, we spent about $50 per person. I would not say this restaurant is on par with Amada for tapas but I would say it’s the best Mexican meal I’ve had in Philly. I would give this place a 4 out of 5. Some dishes could have been better but nothing was terrible and the prices were fair.

3945 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19104


~ by canadianbaconette on May 3, 2009.

2 Responses to “Distrito”

  1. I only spilled the plate so I could get us more churros. Excellent review. It made me feel like I was actually there…again. You’re a great writer!

  2. I realize the lighting was bad in the place, but the pictures still look great. I like the way they’re laid out as well. Kudos!

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