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When in San Juan Eat As The Greeks Do

Jan 16, 2014

One of the things that’s so great about being in Puerto Rico is that it quite literally is “The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.” Forget for a moment all the marvelous Puerto Rican food that’s so delicious and so readily available: the zesty seafood asapao; the spit-turned juicy, tender and adobo-spiced chicken; the golden, twice-fried tostones; the steaming bowls of satisfying arroz con habichuelas; the crispy chillo entero.  Oh my god, my mouth is watering already!

Think, instead, about all the other cuisines on the island: tangy tzatziki, a perfect blend of Greek yogurt, chopped cucumbers and dill, served with hot pita bread. Or Italian wedding soup, thick with its little lamb and Parmesan meatballs and al dente pasta. Or delicious dim sum, in its seemingly infinite varieties. Or a taste of bouillabaisse that’s so authentically French you can feel the afternoon Marseilles sun on your face while you eat it.

That’s the joy of dining in Puerto Rico. There’s almost everything to choose from!   And after living there for more than 30 years, the flavors of the Island’s various ethnic restaurants have become the standard by which I measure all others.

Last night we enjoyed a Greek meal in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the first time we’d been to this particular restaurant, which is actually walking distance from our home, just in the other direction from the way we usually go. I suppose that’s why we hadn’t known it was there until someone recently mentioned it to us. (Obviously,  they don’t advertise.) Tch-tch._But once we found it, it had all the charm anyone could want: A beautiful bar; brick-lined walls in the main dining room; comfortable seating, sconces so glamorous I was tempted to ask the management where I could purchase a similar set. The menu was lengthy enough to offer a multitude of options, and the food, skillfully served and nicely presented, was very good. In all, it was a pleasant dining experience and we’ll go back again. (The restaurant is called Waterstone Grill.)

And yet… and yet… maybe I was a tad disappointed because the chef didn’t pop out to say hello to all of his guests, and talk about his menu for the day as listed on an oversize blackboard, as Chef Theo Ladias-Apostolakis does at Fleria, his Greek restaurant on Loiza Street in San Juan. Maybe I noticed the  difference between the sauce on Chef Theo’s Greek-style green beans and last night’s. (Chef Theo’s is lighter.) I must also admit, however, that I loved Waterstone’s falafel, perfectly fried and light as a feather.  Very different than Fleria’s… although both, in  their own ways, are delectable.

Fleria on Loiza Street is not the only place in Puerto Rico where you can get Greek – or Mediterranean … cuisine. Check out the Tables Magazine Restaurant Guide and  you’ll find others.  And come back next week to read my next post about food in general and PuertoRico’s  options in particular.

And remember:  make somebody happy, make reservations for dinner!

 

Wet

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Wet

W Retreat & Spa,

Road 200, km. 3.2,

Vieques

787-741-4100

Open daily from 11am to 5pm. Bar hours Sunday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm; Friday-Saturday from 9am to 10pm.

$$$

Mediterranean specialties at this poolside eatery.

La cocina mediterránea es la especialidad en este espacio junto a la piscina.

Tempo

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Tempo

Gran Meliá Puerto Rico,

1000 Coco Beach Boulevard,

Río Grande

787-657-1026

Dinner daily from 5pm to 10pm.

$$$

Executive chef Efrain Cruz and Chef de Cuisine Isaac Maisonet brings the best of sophisticated Mediterranean specialities.

El chef ejecutivo Efraín Cruz y el jefe de cocina Isaac Maisonet traen lo mejor de la sofisticada cocina mediterránea.

Carli’s Fine Bistro and Piano

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Chef’s Hat Award Hall of Fame Winner.

Carli’s Fine Dining and Piano

Banco Popular Building,

Old San Juan

787-725-4927

Dinner 4pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday.

$$$

Winner Chef’s Hat Award 2007, 2008, 2009,, 2010 = Member, Hall of Fame

International cuisine attracts local following with a Mediterranean/Caribbean flair. Carli Muñoz (of Beach Boys fame) plays Wednesday through Saturday,  starting at 8:30pm.

Muchos seguidores entre los ciudadanos por la cocina internacional, con toque mediterráneo y caribeño. Carli Muñoz (quien acompañó a los Beach Boys) toca de miércoles a sábado, desde las 8:30 p.m.
Carlis Bistro

Oliva

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O:liva

Olive Boutique Hotel,

55 Aguadilla Street,

Condado (San Juan)

787-705-9994

Lunch Tuesday -Friday noon – 3 pm;  Dinner Tuesday-Thursday 6pm – 11pm; Friday & Saturday 6pm – midnight.

$$$

Chef Nicolás Gómez cooks with Spanish, French, Italian and Marraakesh flavors in this very sophisticated space.

El chef Nicolás Gómez imprime sabores de España, Francia, Italia y Marruecos en este muy sofisticado lugar.

Molasses Oceanfront Restaurant & Lounge

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Molasses Oceanfront Restaurant & Lounge

St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

Road 187, Km. 4.2

Río Grande

787-809-7389

Lunch Wednesday-Sunday 11:30 am-5pm; Dinner Sunday-Thursday 5pm-9pm; Friday & Saturday 5pm-10pm.

L: $$; D: $$$

Chef Luis Guzman offers a fusion of Caribbean, Asian and Mediterranean flavors in a glamorous setting.

El chef Luis Guzman ofrece una fusión de sabores caribeños, asiáticos y mediterráneos.

Marquesa, Café

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Cafe Marquesa

110 del Parque, Cond. Balmoral

Condado (San Juan)

787-723-4124

Open Wednesday to Friday 8:30 am to 6pm; and Saturday and Sunday brunch with freshly baked breakfast pastries.

$$

Sophisticated menu by chef in a casual setting. Chef Jesús Fernandez prepares Mediterranean and French specialties.

Especialidades del mediterraneo y francia en  un menú sofisticado de  chef Jesús Fernandez en un atmósfera casual .

 

 

Makarios

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Makarios

361 Tetuan Street

Old San Juan

787-723-8653

Open 11am to 11pm, daily.

$$

A three level building, with restaurant on the top floor. Mediterranean  & middle-eastern food with a creative local flair.

Edificio de tres niveles, con el bello restaurante en el nivel superior. Comida mediterránea con creativo toque local.

Jerusalem

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Jerusalem

1109 F.D. Roosevelt Avenue

Hato Rey (San Juan)

787-833-8332

Open Tuesday-Sunday from 11am to 10pm.

$$

One of the oldest and still popular casual places for all the good stuff, including hummus, falafel, etc. Belly dancers Friday and Saturday nights.

Uno de los lugares casuales más antiguos y aún popular para toda clase de buena comida incluyendo “hummus,” “falafel,” etc. Danzarinas de vientre los viernes y sábados en la noche.

Jamón, Jamón

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Jamón, Jamón

1762 Loiza Street, corner Diez de Andino,

Santurce (San Juan)

787-993-1848

Opens Tuesday to Saturday at 11:30am.

$$

A fusion of Spanish, Mediterranean and Asian specialties; chef Linda Pérez Denizard also paints the pictures.