San Juan (Long)
Just got back from two weeks in Puerto Rico what an amazing time wonderful food and people, hope to return soon. I only wished Porto Ricans ate more green vegetables.
El Jibarito (Old San Juan) –Puerto Rican Food- Inexpensive. Our favorite restaurant of the trip. Great food and great service. The yucca mofongo is AMAZING I could eat it every night. Loved the rice and beans that came as a side, the whole fried snapper is delicious. Other highlights included roast pork and onions, and did I mention the yucca mofongo? They have good sangria as well.
Marmalade (Old San Juan)-Fancy pants food- Spendy. Very profesional high end service. Another real winner of the trip went for my husband’s birthday with his parents and a friend of ours. Exceptional service!!!! I mentioned while making the reservation that this was for my husband’s birthday. They had us in a private space and had strewn rose petals across the tables! Hubby and I got the 6 course tasting menu while everyone else (not dedicated eaters like us) did not. With every one of our courses the kitchen sent out a taste to the other guests. This is a restaurant that does it right. Each dish was delicious and beautiful BRAVO to the chef and his staff.
If I have any complaints it is that some of the courses seemed too heavy for the weather. Although it was December it was still hot and muggy, the cream sauce on the pasta although delicious probably should not be served so close to a tropical rainforest.
Additionally our tasting menu portions were HUGE no question about it I was full at the end of this meal.
Tasca El Pescadore (sort of Condado)-Puerto Rican Fish-Inexpensive. Really wanted to eat here but they close at 7:30 the Puerto Rican restaurant next door that they recommended is not very good.
Bebo’s Café (Santurce)-Puerto Rican-Inexpensive. Very Very Very good food I had Patitas (pig feet) from the special menu I was soooooooo happy. Everything else was very good as well.
Café Del Angel (Condado)-Puerto Rican-Mid range. THE WORST FOOD OF OUR TRIP!!!!!
Hacienda Don Jose (Condado)- Puerto Rican- Midrange. Amazing view of the water while you eat. Very nice staff. Food was fine but not anything to write about. The rice and chicken soup was the best thing eaten here.
Yuquiyu Delights (El Yunque in the visitor’s center)- mixed food types- expensive for what you get. Our friend forced to eat here before our hike as he did not believe me when I told him that we could stop at a stand on the way up the mountain… Big Mistake Big Big Mistake
El Bosque Incantado (EL Yunque rain forest)- Puerto Rican snacks-Inexpensive Got some bacalaitos, and surullitos here YUM wish we had waited so we could have tried more of her fresh fried delicacies.
La Bombanera (Old San Juan)-Puerto Rican Bakery- YUM YUM YUM I loved the Mallorca here I want to eat them again I want to eat them now! Also on Saturdays that have a special breakfast menu scrambled eggs with bacala is one of my new favorite things.
CafiCultura(Old San Juan)- Coffee- mid range. Great coffee fod was so of but not great. Mallorca were much better at La Bombanera. But the coffee is better here.
Eight Noodle Bar (Condado in the Conrad Condado) Cantonese food. High mid-range. Actually fairly good Chinese food. They have a special menu that is reserved for Chinese people you must ask them for it. It is written in English. The beef lo mein off the regular menu is really good the
Cantonese dishes we tried off the Chinese menu were very good albeit expensive for. The lobster looked amazing but was a lot more then we wanted to spend.
Antonella’s Pizza (Old San Juan)-Pizza-Inexpensive- Really good New York Style Pizza
Via Appia (Condado)- Italian- mid range. fairly good old school Italian food.
Lechoneria Los Pinos (Guavate)-Inexpensive. OMG I think I died and went to heaven. The morcilla was fantastic the lechon amazing if heaven does exists this is what it look like. This was my absolute favorite place in all of PR. If you don’t speak Spanish ordering might be difficult but it is well worth it.
Café Carribea (Condado in the Conrad Condado) umm I guess it was fine for breakfast. We got burgers for our room one night and I think it was the worst burger I ever ate in my entire life. Taste, texture it was bad really really bad.
Umo (Condado)- Argentinian- Spendy. Good steaks and sides, had a Cesar Salad which as it was one of the first instances of fresh greens I had seen on my trip was extremely welcome although not a particularly great example of.
Danny’s International-eh had breakfast here once…
I'll add on to Miss Needles and Charles, since we too just returned from PR.
MARMALADE quite good New Year's Eve (though two employees gave us incorrect closing info during two different calls--chef/owner, Peter, offered for us to come back for complimentary goodies as compensation). I was most impressed by the famous white bean/truffle soup--a unique experience, the monkfish wrapped in prosciutto, and how well the suggested wine-pairings worked. I agree that the coffee and beignets dessert was not good. Others in our party were very pleased with all dishes.
CAFICULTURA was a very positive experience for us two times, both food and coffee. Coffee was the best in OSJ, mallorca was perfect, blending the ham, cheese, and powdered sugar, good fruit salad with yogurt and granola. Hubby was happy with egg breakfasts. We had good experiences.
We went to LA BOMBONERA on Sunday morning, an extremely crowded time. It's like a big NY deli, but maybe our choice of days meant we didn't get the best. The fresh-squeezed orange juice was watered down, while my Cuban sandwich and fries tasted like they had been waiting to be served. Maybe they were because Hubby was almost done when my sandwich finally arrived. Coffee ok.
CAFE BERLIN two times for desserts and coffee--good. Started by a German who made some German dishes. So the present owner still makes a pretty good version of strudel. On the same block as CafeCultura but the coffee isn't as good.
EL CONVENTO--two meals. First, looking for dining after 11 pm, we had a decent pizza and some very expensive beers there. Another day Hubby wanted a snack, so we made the mistake of eating in the tapas bar--very watered-down sangria, unimpressive ham, sausage, and the roasted vegetables were only onion, a pile of garlic, and two anemic US imported tomatoes. However, not to be missed is the cheese flan! Eight-dollars a portion but thick, rich, flavorful. I wish we had realized that La Rosa de Triana tapas was practically around the corner.
FYI EL JIBARITO is the favorite of a family member who visits family in PR every year. Best for traditional food.
ST. GERMAIN is the favorite of another young family members who goes to OSJ frequently. Clean modern food.
Luquillo, Kiosko #2 or LA PARRILLA, delicious and very large portions. Went New Year's Day. Fruity, potent sangria, lobster in tostone cup was unimpressive, oversalted. Best was the octopus salad, smokey flavored rice 'n beans, light yucca mofonga (PR family member kept saying mofonga ), and the sangria. Very good fish and stuffed pork loin. #2 doesn't specialize in coffee but it was a pretty good finish to the meal. The owner said he's been in the business for 17 years, looking for the formula that works well. He seems to have found it. Kiosko in PR means the shop specializes in the fried foods but this is a full-service restaurant which occupies several kiosks. Contents of the doggie bags was enough for dinner for three in the evening.
That's great that you were able to get a real ham and cheese mallorca at Caficultura. I should have sent mine back. Perhaps it was because I was there in the afternoon that they were either out of mallorcas or thought that I would enjoy a panini instead.
I also have not been enamoured with La Bombonera. It's super crowded. I think they're having difficulty keeping quality control trying to serve all of the tourists that pour in.
Thanks for your report. There's a dearth of recent PR info on this board. Glad to see you made it out to Guavate and had a better experience than I did. When I was there a couple of years ago, my pork was super dry. I should try it again at some point. It seems that there was some overlap of our two visits -- hotel, restaurants, time. I was only in San Juan this time. I'm breaking up my report according to neighborhood.
GREAT TASTE -- While my first instinct would be to not go to a Chinese restaurant in Puerto Rico, I've heard really good things about this place. Apparently the dim sum chefs are Hong Kong trained. So we decided to give it a go. We ordered off the dim sum menu. Expensive by NYC standards (about double what it would cost you in NYC), but completely understandable as it probably costs a lot to ship many of the ingredients. These are my impressions of my dishes:
Hau gau -- thick skin; filling was fine
Shrimp cheung fun -- very thick skin; only two shrimp per roll where I generally see three per roll on the mainland
Tripe -- best thing we had; decent, not great.
Watercress dumpling -- one of the better offerings
Xiao long bao -- pretty bad with thick skin and no soup in it
Turnip cakes -- came out cold; surprising as it was a strictly order by number place (versus carts); I asked the waiter to heat it up -- that he did -- via microwave. Kind of gross. The turnip cakes lacked the crispy outside that I so desired.
Overall, it was a disappointing experience. Service had the typical brusqueness that I generally expect from most Chinese restaurants catering to a Chinese clientele -- which I don't mind if they're efficient. But this was some of the slowest service I've ever received. Perhaps this is the best Chinese restaurant in San Juan. But if one is visiting from an area with a decent Chinatown (NYC, LA, SF, etc.), I think it's best to skip this place.
VARITA -- Wilo Benet's more casual place located in the Conrad. I loved Pikayo so I was curious about Varita.
Alcapurias with mayo -- good flavors, but fry temperature was too low as it was too greasy; grease shouldn't ooze when taking a bite
Salt cod bunelos with cilantro pesto -- these are similar to bacalaitos but in a thicker form; same thing with the fry temperature for the alcapurias; the cilantro pesto was quite delicious; I started dipping the alcapurias in the pesto as well
Duck sausage -- as it was in the appetizer section, I thought it was going to be on the smaller side. Was surprised when it was two large links. Sausage was delicious, though a bit too salty. But the accompanying sauteed greens were so salty to render it inedible.
Lechon -- there should be a warning on this dish. Huge portion -- about 1 lb of meat. It was formed into a roulade. The skin was quite delicious and crispy. The meat was well seasoned, but dry in certain areas (but still better than Los Pinos when I was in Guavate a couple of years ago). Overall, a good dish, but probably expensive compared to going to a lechonaria.
Fries -- lukewarm and greasy; the guy in charge of the frying station totally screwed up that night
Mini cheese flan -- was quite delicious and silky; there was a cream cheese mixture encased in the custard.
CAFE DEL ANGEL
Tostones cups with picadillo beef -- thought it was quite a tasty dish
Shrimp asopao -- served piping hot; temperature was a bit too hot that I think it may have made the shrimps a bit overdone; in retrospect, I should have removed all of the shrimp as soon as I got the soup; good flavors
Charles, not sure why you thought it was such a horrible restaurant. Can you elaborate? I thought it was perfectly serviceable. Perhaps not the best Criollo food, but certainly not the worst. Service was a bit slow, but I understood as they were pretty understaffed.
JAM RUM BAR -- same owners as Marmalade. As I'm not a rum fan, I started off with a delicious passionfruit sangria. I normally don't report on beverages unless I find it absolutely fantastic. And this was heavenly. It was composed of some passionfruit puree, white wine and seltzer. I could drink a ton of these if I wasn't concerned about putting too much alcohol into my body.
Shrimp ceviche -- good and refreshing
Paella croquettes -- well-fried and delicious; was kind of hoping for some bits of seafood and chorizo, but all I got were rice and peas.
Bread and butter -- freshly baked; huge portion -- probably best ordered if you have at least 6 people in your party
Plantain crusted seared tuna with malanga puree -- OK but malanga puree was kind of bland; tuna was cooked well (which means rare in my eyes)
Veal -- was the absolute stunner of the night; too bad that they decided to be sensible with portions on this entree! It was about 4 oz of veal.
Chocolate mousse with coconut -- not generally a mousse fan but ordered it because it was the signature dessert; good if you're into this sort of thing
Service was very friendly. They got one of our appetizers wrong but quickly rectified it. Overall, I thought the food at Marmalade is better. But Marmalade is more expensive. The one thing that upset me about my meal was our bill. The entire bill was in English with the exception of one line -- the line that stated "propina incluido." This is not the US -- so I wasn't too upset about the tip being included. But I was upset that every singe thing (including the stuff they generally put on bottom like "thank you and come again...") was in English with the exception of the tip part. This kind of leads me to believe that they do this intentionally to trick tourists into doubletipping. I think it's a very bad business move on Jam's part.
CASA DEL CARIBE
This is the casual oceanside restaurant located in the Conrad Hotel. I just went there for some coffee. The setting is quite lovely. Surprisingly enough, the coffee was decent -- a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Good crema. Not one of those Stumptown-type coffee houses by any means but not a bad option if you want to drink a cup of Bustelo-type of coffee in an ocean-view setting. Probably wouldn't just order coffee during breakfast or lunch times. But it would be fine during an off-hour.
Pork belly burgers with gouda cheese -- last time I had these, I didn't receive pork belly but pork shoulder. This time it was ground pork (not super fatty). It was delicious, but I wish they would label it correctly.
Lumachine with spicy crab -- it was a small pasta in spicy crab tomato cream based sauce -- so good; was surprised at spice level as it was quite spicy -- have a pretty iron tongue; while it was fine for me, i think many people will think it's too much; I'm still thinking of that dish
Foie gras with ripe plantains and black truffle honey -- good combo; wished there was a bit more sear on the foie gras and that they didn't cook it for as long as they did
Halibut -- HUGE piece as it was about 10 oz; well-cooked
Veal chops -- ordered medium rare; came out pretty rare like caveman rare
Side order of monfoguito -- still, best version of mofongo i've had; lighter than monfongo
Chocolate brownie with coffee ice cream -- fine, nothing earth-shattering
Cheese flan -- different version than Varita's -- instead of a separation between custard and cream cheese, this was more like the two were incorporated into one; think of a more custardy form of cheesecake
Overall, the meal was very good. I thought the cooks at Marmalade did a better job cooking the items -- I think they are probably more skilled than the cooks at Pikayo. But still a delicious dinner. I'm still a bit peeved about the desserts. The desserts are just not on the same sophistication level as the rest of the menu. They tasted fine, but these desserts are something I would expect at a mid-range restaurant, not fine dining.
OLD SAN JUAN
TRIPLETA STAND BY CRUISE SHIPS -- heard there were supposed to be two, but only saw one that day. I forgot the name but the color of it was lavender. The guy was very nice, but I didn't enjoy my tripleta. Not sure because it wasn't a good version or I just don't like tripleta in general. I'm thinking it's the former because the tripleta I received looked nothing like the pics I've seen on the Internet.
Instead of pieces of ham, my tripleta contained pieces of hot dog. Instead of big pieces of chicken and steak, I received tiny bits of chicken and beef. There were hardly any potato matchsticks to be found. And instead of being able to see the meat, the whole sandwich was doused in a ketchup-mayo sauce that totally obliterated the taste of the meats -- with the exception of the hot dog. It was just bad. Thank goodness we only ordered one.
CAFICULTURA -- coffee was good; ordered a ham and cheese mallorca and thought it was disappointing because I didn't receive what I thought I was going to get; it ended up being a ham and cheese panini with no powdered sugar to be found anywhere. I tried to mimic it by adding granulated white sugar (for the coffee) on top but it just wasn't the same; the sandwich was fine, but it wasn't what was advertised. Very misleading.
Did the 6-course tasting menu (including dessert and bean soup). They said there's no difference in the amount of food between the 4-course and 6-course as they scale down the portions. And an added bonus is that members in your party don't have to order the same things. So if you're the type of people who like to share, you can get to try more things.
Harissa tuna tartar with tzazitki and warm pita -- delicious; waiter strongly steered me to this dish; didn't disappoint
Yellowfin tuna tartar with tostones and pineapple and jalapeno and lime -- I loved the tostones as it was super thin and more delicate. Pretty tart.
Foie gras with blackberry sauce and confit sausage -- HUGE piece of foie gras. I didn't know whether they gave us a full portion size instead of tasting size. But it was very well prepared.
Gnocci with braised short ribs and crispy beetroot -- Very good and creamy.
Lobster risotto -- rice cooked perfectly; good chunks of well-cooked lobster; you could really taste the lobster throughout this dish; my favorite dish of the evening
Black truffle tagliatelle -- redolent of black truffles; just a hair overcooked but delicious; it was DH's favorite dish of the night
Prosciutto wrapped monkfish in a red wine sauce -- well cooked
Braised "kobe" beef cheeks -- melt-in-you-mouth salt. There was a $15 surcharge for the beef cheeks.
Coffee and donuts -- pretty bad; used to love them as they were more like mini bomboloni; chef now decided to put almond extract in the chocolate so that they kind of taste like chocolate and cherry cough syrup. donuts pretty heavy and ponderous; hardly touched them
Milk chocolate mousse with passionfruit -- loved, loved it; reminded me of the famous black pearl from maui's Mama's Fish House (one of my very favorite desserts); delicate and well-balanced; I would say it's a must-order.
Probably the best meal of my trip. Food was indeed very rich in butter and cream. But it was quite delicious.
Mallorca with ham and swiss -- finally I got what I was looking for! I would have preferred it to be more heated up as I like the insides warmer. Sandwich is huge -- makes two meals. I ate one half and saved the other half for breakfast next AM using an iron to heat it up.
Media Noche -- Didn't really touch it because it had a pickle in it. But DH said it was fine.
So I did a lot of rich eating in Puerto Rico. Time for some more simple food these days. Had fun while doing it though. One restaurant I wished I was able to try is Casita Miramar. From the same people of La Casita Blanca, it's supposed to a be a bit more upscale. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed for the holidays. Hopefully others can go and report back because I don't know when I'll get to go to PR again in the future. When I asked the concierge about Casita Miramar, she seemed really alarmed that I knew about the place. I think it's a total local place at this point. So I would try to go now before the word gets out in the guidebooks.
re: Miss Needle
Miss Needle, we had the same experience re: Varita's duck and lechon . . .
Agree regarding Pikayo's desserts. If you're in the mood for them the little souffles are quite good.
Except for local restaurants, Marmalade was probably the best meal of our trip. That said, I'm glad we had a 9:00 PM reservation, noise level could be an issue. SO said chairs were uncomfortable.