Breaking: Jose Garces Reveals Details For West Philly’s Distrito

June 4, 2008


PHILADELPHIA, PA – In July, Jose Garces, the top Latin chef who brought tapas to Philadelphia with his acclaimed restaurants Amada and Tinto, will debut Distrito (3945 Chestnut Street), a high-energy restaurant inspired by the spirited culture and cuisine of Mexico City. The Distrito menu will feature Chef Garces’ fresh interpretations of classic Mexican fare. A striking decor will include a hot pink and bright green color scheme, a wall constructed from over 600 colorful, campy masks of lucha libre, or “free fight” professional wrestlers, and a booth crafted from a Volkswagen Beetle, a typical Mexico City taxi cab.

Rest of the release after the jump, and don’t forget to check out our exclusive video interview with Jose Garces from a month or two ago.

At 35, Garces is one of the country’s hottest rising star chefs and has garnered extraordinary acclaim for his successes thus far. “I love the vibrant flavors of Mexican cuisine, and Distrito offers me a great opportunity to share them,” he says. “It’s a thrilling way for me to continue my evolution as a chef and restaurateur.”

Distrito’s menu will traverse Mexico City’s rich gastronomical landscape and focus on the cuisine of what is affectionately known as the “Distrito Federal,” or “D.F.” – the centrally-located capital city from which Distrito takes its name. Garces’ signature interpretations of classic Mexican fare will include: Scallops al Pastor, skewers of al pastor-marinated scallops and fresh pineapple, grilled and served over a sweet pepper and grapefruit salsa; Guindilla Chili-Marinated Lamb Chops with smoked bacon etole, chanterelle mushroom escabeche and pasilla-lamb jus; and Huarache de los Hongos, a thin masa cake that is grilled and topped with black and royal trumpet mushrooms, huitlacoche sauce, queso Chihuahua, black truffles and corn shoots.

Distrito will also feature a selection of more than 60 tequila varieties behind the bar and a selection of fresh, house-made margaritas, prepared daily. Cocktails will range in price from $10 to $14, and will include: Guanabana, made from Velho Barriera cachaca, chartreuse and guanabana; Cosmo de Jamaica, a hibiscus cosmopolitan made with Smirnoff vodka, hibiscus and fresh lime; and Caipirinha de Jengibre, made from cachaca moleca, canton ginger and lime. Beer, both on draught and in bottles, and a list of North- and South-of-the-Border wines will also be available. A fresh fruit bar will provide a rotating, daily selection of juices for non-alcoholic libations.

Distrito’s look and feel was captured by Jun Aizaki of Crème Design Collective, and pays homage to the diverse elements of Mexico City’s culture. On a recent trip to Mexico City, the effervescent outdoor markets provided inspiration to Aizaki, along with the vivid colors and patterns of even the most everyday household objects.
“Mexico City itself has a hustle and bustle; it’s so alive,” says Aizaki. “When we designed Distrito, we tried to make it really fun and interactive and to channel the kinetic energy of the city.”

The bi-level restaurant, with seating for 250 guests, offers an atmosphere that is multi-textured and engaging. Exciting design elements include: a working jukebox, a vending machine equipped with Mexican action figures and toys and an assortment of seats that swing, swivel and rotate. Comfortable banquettes covered in hand-woven rattan fibers and resin table tops inlaid with the bright prints of Mexican fabrics will contribute to the over-the-top ambiance.

Chef de Cuisine Tim Spinner, most recently of Garces’ acclaimed Old City tapas flagship Amada, and General Manager Adam Baru will oversee the day-to-day operations, which Garces hopes will “be an anchor in the area. We want to be a part of our neighborhood here in West Philadelphia, and bring diners from other areas to our new home, as well. Distrito offers guests a chance to sample up-to-the-moment Mexican cuisine in a festive environment that brings the culture of Mexico City to life – in a way that can be enjoyed on any budget.”

Chef Jose Garces was recently chosen to appear as a challenger on the Food Network’s hit show Iron Chef America. This fall will see the release of his first cookbook, Latin Evolution (Lake Isle Press). Called the “Latin Emeril” by one food critic for his wide smile and educational approach to food, Garces has long been an ambassador of contemporary Latin cuisine, appearing regularly in the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Wall Street Journal. Most recently, he opened Chicago’s Mercat a la Planxa, a Catalan tapas concept in that city’s historic Blackstone Hotel, as the executive chef, in partnership with Denver-based Sage Restaurant Group.

Distrito is located at 3945 Chestnut Street, in West Philadelphia’s bustling University City neighborhood. The restaurant will be open for dinner seven days a week.

  • Mike Shields


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