A Superb Argentinian Restaurant

This month my eldest son celebrates his birthday. He lives in Arkansas now with his wife and family. At one time, some years ago, he went to Commonwealth High School. Played baseball for them. And football. I remember picking him up after practices (before he was a senior and had his own car. Well, his own shared-car. He and a friend bought it for $500. $250 each. I don’t remember if I contributed to that $250. Possibly, because it would have taken him a long time to save $250 back then.)

What I do remember is how hungry he would be when I picked him up. As were his sister and brothers. (It was a familiar pick-up-the-kids-after-school route: first dancing school, then PeeWee football practice, then Commonwealth’s practice.) So we stopped along the way home and bought two loaves of pan de agua at the bakery. One was to go with dinner; the other was to be devoured during the car ride home.  Interestingly, two of the children liked the crust of pan de agua; the other two liked the softer insides. It worked out well.  It was harder getting them to clean the crumbs out of the car once we got home.

Pan de Agua is ubiquitous in Puerto Rico. It is the bread served in all criollo restaurants. Either toasted with a smear of garlic butter, or fresh with a side of butter, it graces all tables that serve Puerto Rican or Caribbean food.

As a matter of fact, its use is even broader than that. One of my favorite places to eat pan de agua is at Che’s, an Argentinian restaurant in Punta las Marías, bordering Isla Verde. (Calle Coaba #35, 787-726-7202). The restaurant has been there forever (well, at least 25 years), and is a Tables Magazine Chef’s Hat Awards, Hall of Fame member. Their lemon chicken is amazingly moist and tasty; their churrasco (skirt steak) is grilled to perfection; their rice and beans is comfort-food heaven. But no matter what I order, I always start my meal with pan de agua and red salsa. Che’s salsa is unlike most others. It’s neatly chopped to a lovely consistency, seasoned wonderfully and tops a slice of pan de agua so that it tastes divine on the tongue. Most people use it on their churrasco. I do too, but usually have to order a second dish of salsa in order to do so; that’s how much salsa I use for the bread.

So if you’re going to Puerto Rico, enjoy the warm weather, beautiful beaches, wonderful hotels and pan de agua and salsa, churrasco,  and Che’s. And make somebody happy; make reservations for dinner.

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