MANILA -- District 8, the newest gastropub in Greenhills, officially opens Monday at G-strip in San Juan. Taking up the whole second floor of G-strip, the idea behind the gastropub was hatched during a celebrity-studded house party in San Juan.
“One night, we were all at Paul’s [Artadi] house, in their garden having some drinks. Daniel (Padilla) was there, Paul, James (Yap), Marc Pingris, Charlton (Yu) and myself, they were six of us, and during that night, we kind of thought of opening a sports bar initially, which eventually evolved into what it is now, a gastropub,” shared Francis Zamora, one of the partners of District 8.
The interiors were inspired by artsy establishments doting the hip Meatpacking District of New York, taking elements like exposed ceilings, and rustic furniture -- very comfortable leather seats and wooden tables. Murals done by Peter Apuyan are also a big part that creates District 8’s artsy look, with an abundance of Edison lights to create the mood.
It’s the biggest restaurant in G-Strip, which can sit 140 persons inside, in addition to alfresco areas and private rooms (Ninja room for 24 persons, and the Owner’s VIP room for 10 persons). There’s also a 400-sq.m. open space at the back of the pub -- perfect for large events, and parties.
Unlike a regular pub or sports bar, gastropubs put an emphasis on serving fine food. To stay true to this concept, the partners tapped chef Kel Zaguirre of Locavore to head their kitchen and create District 8’s menu.
“When the initial plans were launched, we made a decision to bring in chef Kel Zaguirre. So he’s the captain of our kitchen. With Kel coming in, and Daniel [Padilla] giving Vice Ganda a call, asking him if he wanted to invest, to which he said yes to immediately, that then created the core of District 8. That’s why we’re called District 8, because we’re eight partners,” explained Zamora.
Padilla, Ganda, Yap, Artadi, Pingris, Yu, Zaguirre, and Zamora are the eight partners of District 8. All of them are very successful and driven people, and while Zamora has been in the food industry for more than 17 years (co-owning various restaurant franchises in Greenhills) as well as Zaguirre, of course, to most of the partners, the food business is a new unknown venture.
“I didn’t know anything about what a gastropub is,” Artadi jokingly shared.
Notably, District 8 is Padilla’s first business venture, and as reported in a previous article by the entertainment site Push, he was very hands-on in the creating the concept.
During the night that we were there, Padilla with leading lady, Kathryn Bernardo, as well as other partners were present, to support the gastropub.
“This is what we wanted to have for Greenhills, a great place for food and drinks,” said Zamora.
Currently open 5 p.m. onwards, here are eight things to try in the new District 8:
1. Onion Jam Croquettas
Perhaps an homage to their basketball player-owners, this Onion Jam Croquettas is a slam dunk. Dollops of béchamel (cheese sauce) with onion jam (caramelized onions) are breaded and fried into crispy balls. Crispy outside with its insides like the silkiest of mashed potatoes, topped with additional onion jam and tobiko (fish roe) for a burst of a brine, and dipped into a creamy aioli, makes for a ball of delicious. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
2. Oysters and Uni
Another appetizer, these lightly grilled fresh oysters are joined by a piece of uni and pickled cucumber. The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity—letting the oyster shine, in between bites of crusty bread. Simple and delicious. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
3. Baby Squid al Ajillo
"Al ajillo" means with garlic or cooked with garlic, and while District 8 has various al ajillo options, we tasted the Baby Squid al Ajillo. Scoop some baby squid onto your crusty slice of baguette, find some of that garlic confit and remember to take some of that flavor-packed olive oil, spread the confit like butter on your bread, let that oil sink into the slice, drizzle some squid ink aioli to finish, and take a bite of seafood garlic heaven. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
4. Paella y Callos
With a solo and a for-sharing option, this Paella y Callos is sure to become one of District 8’s bestsellers. How can one go wrong with cooking paella using callos stew and its broth? With a healthy helping of chorizo and vegetables, this slightly wet paella had the requisite burnt bits (soccarat) prized in paella, and didn’t scrimp on that paprika-rich flavor. My favorite dish of the night. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
5. Hanger Steak
What goes well with wine, beer, and even the whisky selection available at District 8? Meat. Grilled hanger steak is paired with fresh-tasting chimichurri with sides of sweet and tangy pico de gallo. A dab of crema (sour cream) finishes a bite that begs for a cups of garlic rice. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
6. Cervesa Negra Chocolate Cake
cake besides a tiny backnote of bitterness at the end, which worked well in balancing the sweetness coming from the salted-caramel filling in between the layers, as well as enhancing the dark chocolate flavor in the moist cake. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
7. Banana Beer Beignets
Beer doughnut dough filled with mashed banana, and then deep fried. The doughnut had a chewy bite to it, and eating it was akin to eating a crusty banana filled pancake, especially enjoyable when dunked into its accompaniments -- whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, or my personal preference, in all of them. Best for a group. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra
8. The Supremo
District 8’s bar list is extensive, featuring wines, whiskeys, tequila, gins, various cocktails, to even draft and flavored beers, among others. One of the highlights of the bar list though are the 8 cocktails named after the District 8’s owners -- Kidlat for Paul Artadi, Big Game for James Yap, Pinoy Sakuragi for Marc Pingris, Vice Charmer for Vice Ganda, Zam for Francis Zamora, The Butcher for Kel Zaguirre, Amo for Charlton Yu, and last but not the least, the Supremo for Daniel Padilla.
With the personalities of the partners infused into the drink, the Supremo is an early bestseller, takes hints from the star’s bright personality. It’s like a smoother, more fragrant version of a tequila sunrise, using the subtle sweetness of white rum instead of brash tequila — sunny, tangy, and sweet. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra