I’m not quite sure what my co-editor and I were expecting on our first trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Of course we expected beautiful beaches and plenty of nightlife, however, we were pleasantly surprised to find a city full of vibrant cuisine, with some of the best and exceptional service. While that service extended to our hotel (La Concha Resort) and throughout our stay, the friendly guidance was particularly stellar. This trip didn’t allow for us to dig in to the solely local flavors of PR, i.e. Mofongo, which we plan to devour on our next visit, however, we were happy to discover a fusion of fine dining mixed with island flavors. We can’t say enough about our hotel, La Concha Renaissance Resort in the Condado region of San Juan, as it was not only on a perfect stretch of sandy beach, but was centrally located to all the food and fun one would need. I might add, it also was host to one of our Top 3 Restaurant picks which you’ll read soon. Additionally, if you stay at La Concha try and nab a beachfront room and be sure and grab a poolside Cava Sangria to make a perfect island day. Here’s our Top 3 Restaurants to Dine at the next time your in San Juan, PR:
1. Pikayo: 999 Ashford Avenue, San Juan, PR 00907, 888-722-1274 www.candadoplaza.com/dining/pikayo
Founded by Chef Wilo Benet, Pikayo is one of the first Caribbean foodie destinations. The restaurant has moved from it’s original Museum location, and is now in the Conrad Hotel, also in Condado. The dining room mixes a fine atmosphere with a casual flare utilizing some of the most interesting and provocative local art. But, art isn’t the only feature to notice, as Chef Benet fuses classic European dishes with Puerto Rican twists.
We started with an interesting twist on a traditional ceviche, which featured mini toasts, with the ceviche layered on top. Entrees were superb as I had the South American Sea Bass, which was interestingly paired with steamed asparagus, and a spicy chorizo emulsion. The lighter and beautiful fish, was made heartier with this emulsion, so much so, that it paired perfectly with an Oregon Pinot Noir. Frank had the Jumbo Shrimp, which was paired with a coconut milk polenta and spicy guava sauce, thus pulling in that signature island flavor.
Both Frank and I would happily repeat a visit to Pikayo any time we are back in PR.
2. O:liva Dieta Mediterranea: The Olive Boutique Hotel – 55 Aguadilla Street, Condado, San Juan 00907, 787-705-9994 www.oliveboutiquehotel.com
This new addition to the Puerto Rican dining scene is situated in a charming B&B like hotel. The rustic interior is warm and inviting in a comfortable and informal manner. The cuisine is a blend of food from Sprain, France, Italy and Morocco. The twist is that each
dish fuses some, or all of these countries’ flavors, as opposed to having simply a Spanish dish or a French dish etc. The chef is the well regarded, Nicolas Gomez who has crafted this interesting menu, with some of the freshest olive oil and ingredients possible.
For starters get the Galician Spanish Octopus with flavors from Spain and France, or the Shrimp Cannoli, a savory play on dessert, with asparagus, prosciutto and creamy shrimp sauce in a puffed pastry. Our group all opted for the delicious fresh Cod.
3. Perla: – 1077 Ashford Avenue | La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort, San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico, 7879773285 www.perlarestaurant.com
Probably one of the most visually stunning and iconic restaurants in Puerto Rico, Perla is truly the pearl located in an oyster shaped, over water building. The decor inside is as dramatic as the building’s exterior. Pefectly lit, one has the feel that they’ve entered a speakeasy aboard a classic luxury liner. Music is sublime as is the unobtrusive, yet knowledgable service. Fortunately, one would not go there solely for the architecture and decor, as the dining experience is equally exquisite. Chef Dayn Smith brings a refined, yet bold flare to food that mixes the classics with a local Puerto Rican sensibility.
Starter dishes were phenomenal and unique. The grilled prawns with coconut curry sauce was inspired, as was the creamy lobster broth soup, with Cognac cream. But, as good as these dishes were, the winner went to the Taylor Bay Scallop with Italian sausage and crimini mushrooms. Entrees were definitely not a let down, as our group tasted the pan roasted sea bass with a main lobster and truffle risotto, the spicy seared tuna, with a peppercorn sauce, the breast of chicken stuffed with manchego and serrano, and the baked lobster tale. All were delightful, satisfying, yet not overly filling. Flavors exploded and met the drama of the atmosphere.
With out a doubt put Perla on your list, whether you’re staying at La Concha or not!