Softly open in the Gaslamp is Ocean Pacific Grille, which now occupies the corner spot at F Street and 6th Avenue that most recently held the short-lived Encore Champagne Bar & Dining Room.
The new owners, Brian Norris and executive chef Charles Andres, have transformed the space, starting with making the front lounge, which was once dominated by a white bar and hanging glass chandeliers, more relaxed and approachable; the bar top has been swapped for wood and there are new banquettes and a smattering of TVs. All the furniture in the dining room has been replaced, and the restaurant has a fresh blue and orange color scheme.
Both Norris and Andres are longtime vets of the Roy's Restaurant group so Andres, a Maui native, is well-versed in Pacific Rim cuisine. But his seafood-focused menu for Ocean Pacific Grille draws more from his Filipino heritage, which he's hoping to interpret here in modern and lighter preparations. Describing their signature style of food as "bold Pacific flavors in a Filipino state of mind", many dishes draw inspiration from traditional Filipino cuisine, which is due to have its moment in the culinary spotlight. A section of kilawin, or raw seafood and meat preparations, includes beef tatami, scallop crudo and ahi poke. The crispy skin sea bass, served with mussels, bok toy and string beans, has the sour and savory flavors of sinigang, with its tomato and tamarind broth. From the starters, there are adobo-style baby baby back ribs and an Italian-Filipino bruschetta, topped with burrata cheese, slow-roasted tomatoes and tocino, a sweet barbecued pork.
On weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., happy hour includes $6 bar snacks ranging from shrimp toast to sisig (crispy pork belly) tacos and beef sliders with banana ketchup, along with half-priced draft beer and wine. There are also craft cocktails, made with Asian ingredients, including citrusy calamansi juice. Ocean Pacific Grille is currently open for dinner, but plans to expand to weekend brunch and lunch service soon.