La Jaquita Baya

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La Jaquita Baya

801 Fernandez Juncos (corner of Estado)

Miramar, San Juan

787-993-5359

Casual dining

Monday 6:30 pm – 10pm; Tuesday-Thursday 11:30am-3:30 pm and 6:30 pm – 10pm.; Friday 11:30 am to 11pm; Saturday 6:30 pm – 11pm.

Cherf Xavi Pacheco creates what regulars call Puerto Rican  gourmet cuisine.

(valet parking)

 

Rosa Mexicano

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Rosa Mexicano

The Shops at Paseo Caribe

Ave. Muñoz Rivera

San Juan, PR

939-338-7344

Casual-Elegant dining.

Lunch Monday-Sunday 11:30 – 4pm;

Dinner: Monday – Wednesday, 4pm-10pm; Thursday – Saturday 4pm – midnight; Sunday, 4pm-11pm.

Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 11:30 – 3pm

Happy Hour: Monday-Friday 4pm-7pm

 

New to Puerto Rico, but 30 years experience in New York City, Los Angeles, MIami,Boston, Atlanta, D.C., etc. An authentic Mexican menu, with  freshly made guacamole. Gets a sophisticated crowd.

 

Bistro La Plage

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Bistro La Plage

Beach Club Restaurant & Bar

4851 Isla Verde Avenue (front of Howard Johnson)

Isla Verde, Carolina

787-268-7733

 

Monday-Thursday 5pm-10pm; Friday and Saturday,  5pm-11pm; Sunday Brunch 11am – 4pm; and dinner  Sunday 4pm-10p.

Beach Menu Monday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm

Well-known and award-winning Chef David Chaymol presents this new restaurant . Casual lunch; casual-elegant dinner.

 

Swiss Bistro

swiss flagSwiss Bistro

254 Ave. De Diego

Condado, San Juan

 

787-666-1210

 

Monday noon to 3pm; Wednesday through Saturday noon to 3pm and 6 to 10 pm; Sunday Noon to 4pm

 

A casual-elegnt restaurant serving authentic Swiss cuisine, specializing in buffets and fondue. International and Puerto Rican dishes also on buffet.

 

 

Meat Market Miami

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Meat Market Miami

El San Juan Hotel

6063 Isla Verde Avenue

Carolina

787-791-1000

 

Sunday to Wednesday 5:30 pm to midnight; Thursday through Saturday 5:30 to 1am.

Updated take on the traditional steakhouse dining exp;erience. Their Crudo Bar is the place for fresh made-to-order sharing plates and fresh ceviche. A contemporary environment with the South Beach flair.

 

Up and Coming Chefs

As wonderful as the chefs in PR are now, there will some wonderful new ones soon!

Chef Felipe González is heading up the new Culinary Arts Certificate Program at the University of Puerto Rico, Carolina. Chef Felipe got his BA in Hotel and Restaurant Administration at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass.; an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.  He has worked with Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans at NOLA’s Restaurant, and learned Indian cuisine to work as chef de cuisine at Tantra Restaurant in Old San Juan.

When Felipe wanted to learn pastry arts and boulangerie, he learned French and studied at Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi in Paris, also gaining more experience at Potet & Chabot, a Parisian catering business.

The Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association has awarded a scholarship to Chef Felipe to pursue an Executive MBA degree at Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico.

Other current scholarships that have been awarded for 2014 include : Christian Castro at Johnson & Wales, for an Associate’s degree in Baking and Pastry; Andrés Lugo to Interamericana for a Master’s Degree in Marketing; Melanie Pabón to Johnson & Wales for an Associate Degree in Baking and Pastry; and Joseph Rosa to Culinary Institute of America for a Bachelor’s Degree in American Food Studies: Farm to Table Cooking.

Friends told me they recently had a lovely dinner at Salt Gastrobar, at the Howard Johnson’s Isla Verde resort. Chef Rene Marichal provides a “multisensory experience” with a comfortable dining room and unique  combinations of food leading the list.They said to be sure to try one of the delicious Himalayan Salt Block Platters: either fillet, scallops or shrimp served on a block of salt.

Salt Gastrobar is open from 10am to 5pm on Sunday; 4pm to 11pm on Monday through Wednesday; and 4pm to midnight on Thursday through Saturday. It’s at Howard Johnson Isla Verde Hotel; 4820 Isla Verde Avenue. Their telephone number is 787-919-7575.

Remember, make somebody happy; make reservations for dinner!

Salt Gastrobar

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Salt Gastrobar

Howard Johnson Isla Verde Hotel

4820 Isla Verde Avenue

Carolina PR

787-919-7575

 

Sunday 10am to 5pm; Monday through Wednesday 4pm to 11pm; Thursday through Saturday 4pm to midnight.

 

Chef Rene Marichal offers a multi-sensory experience: good looking dining room, creative menu (try the Himalayan Salt Block Platters) and a well-equipped bar.

Award-winning Chefs Deepen Culinary Experience

Three of Puerto Rico’s award-winning chefs have been named to the 2014 “Top 25 Chefs of the Caribbean “ list, by on-line magazine Caribbean Journal.

Two of the winning  chef/owner s, Wilo Benet of Pikayo at the Conrad Condado Plaza Hotel (999 Ashford Avenue) and chef/owner  Roberto Treviño of Budatai, (1056 Ashford Avenue), both in Condado, should come as no surprise for having won yet another award. Both chefs and their wildly popular restaurants are winners of the Tables Magazine Chef’s Hat Award … so many times, in fact, that they’re in the Tables Magazine Hall of Fame! Both men are also ”Celebrity Chefs,” known for their television appearances: Treviño appeared on the Iron Chef competition show on Stateside television; Benet had his own long-running chef series on South American television. Treviño has multiple restaurants on Ashford Avenue. Benet’s cookbooks, the English-language  Puerto Rico True Flavors and its Spanish version, Puerto Rico Sabor Criollo are both best-sellers. Benet also has his own wine label, Dobleú Wine, which Wine Spectator’s Robert Parker declared “Best Buy” in the Wine Advocate.  And so on….

More surprising was the third winner named by the on-line magazine. A newer restaurant/chef  does  not  usually garner “best of” awards; prudent  reviewers generally wait to see “how things settle” before jumping in with a rave review. However, in this instance, word-of-mouth has probably played a big part in their decision of the third winner. Ever since it opened in the fall of 2013, Yantar Restaurant (1018 Ashford Avenue, Condado) has been the talk of the town.

Yantar’s chef, Xiomara Marquez,  has already delighted diners with her versions of Spanish favorites. Whether it’s tapas at the stunning bar or a full meal at an elegantly set table, Yantar gets raves from happy diners. People love the Spanish-style lamb, the tasty-melt-in-your-mouth halibut, and the various seafood ceviches.  A favorite from the beginning has been the Warm Mango Gazpacho, prepared tableside.  Other favorites include the tortilla española, the seafood risotto entrees and a variety of meat and fish choices.

In addition to the exciting menu and impeccable service, the restaurant is lauded for its elegant décor. And the tables by the windows overlooking the the Condado Lagoon offer romantic views.  As delightful as all this is, so too does the wine list appeal. Lengthy and reasonable, it offers something for everyone.

So make somebody happy; make reservations for dinner.

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.

Great Food for Children

School breaks always offer the temptation of a warm getaway.

With at least  6 or 7 weeks till then, it gives you lots of time to make your plane reservations, secure hotel accommodations and whisk yourselves off to an exotic (but familiar) destination. Exotic because undulating palm trees are not the view you see as you shovel the snow from your driveway; yet familiar because you don’t have to worry about getting a passport. Or changing money into a foreign currency. Puerto Rico uses the same dollars, same postal service, same language (well, one of them, anyway; it’s amazing how many people in San Juan are bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English.)

So the big thing is: “I know they have wonderful beaches and a warm ocean,  and the big hotels have exciting casinos, with lobbies often having live music to dance to… but what about entertainment for the kids? What will they do all day? And is there food that they’ll eat?” (Not an insignificant question, that. Many years ago, even before I was a teenager, my pre-teen cousin would only eat hamburgers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t remember how long it lasted, but his father, having a meat market, helped fuel his fixation. )

There are marvelous restaurants for kids in San Juan; restaurants that serve familiar food in kid-friendly surroundings.  (That’s in addition to the familiar stateside chain restaurants: Pizzeria Uno’s, for instance, is on Ashford Avenue in Condado. The latest chain is the Cheesecake Factory, which recently opened at Plaza las Americas, the Caribbean’s largest shopping center…a 10 or 20 minute ride from Ashford Avenue, depending on traffic.) But there is also the kind of restaurants the kids will remember as “different” when they get back home and tell their schoolmates what they did on their April vacation.

One such restaurant is The Piña Colada Club at the Caribe Hilton Hotel.   A colorful dining room has an adjoining terrace with a coloring wall, where kids are encouraged to create their own artwork on the side of the building!. The kids’ menu includes stateside favorites such as chicken tenders, mini burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches. I personally prefer the luscious Big Hot Cuban Wrap, a mix of roasted pork, ham and Swiss cheese with pickles and mustard, wrapped in a flour tortilla. Yum!  Everybody loves the dessert, which  includes a warm chocolate fudge brownie served with ice cream… or the make your own ice cream sundae with every kind of topping you can think of, plus pineapple, chocolate or caramel syrup. With whipped cream and a cherry, of course.

After lunch, it’s time to feed the ducks at the Caribe Hilton’s lovely pond… or join other kids at the resort’s supervised activities .More about kids next time.  But remember to make somebody happy; make reservations for dinner.