Seattle’s summer has not been very generous this year. We’re into July and our daily high has been in the low 60′s. While I’m very grateful that we’re not dealing with devastating forest fires and hurricanes, I would much rather be in a warmer climate. That’s why when the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino invited us for a stay at their beautiful resort in Puerto Rico, there was no way that I was going to decline.
As it was my first time in Puerto Rico I was extremely excited for the Caribbean weather, crystal clear waters, and of course, the flavorful local cuisine. I had no idea what I was in for, but San Juan’s local flavor did not disappoint. Let’s start with the magical dinner that we had at the La Vista Latin Grill and Bar conveniently located on the bottom floor of the San Juan Marriott.
La Vista Latin Bar and Grill.
The view alone was enough to sell me. We were situated right along the edge of the patio with a stunning view of the sunset. Our 4-course meal started with mouthwatering shredded beef empanadas, followed by a fresh vinaigrette salad. The main dish was your choice of barbecued ribs, chicken, tenderloin, sirloin, or chorizo accompanied by an assortment of grilled vegetables.
Dessert came in two parts. We had a dessert trio of pineapple tart, vanilla flan, and a sinful mocha cheesecake. Part deux of dessert was our nightcap. We had our choice of six different kinds of rum. I went for the Bacardi Oakheart and it was superb. It’s needless to say that our exquisite dinner at La Vista left us very fulfilled.
Budatai is Asian-Fusion at its best. This posh restaurant is headed by Puerto Rico’s very own Iron Chef, Roberto Treviño. A short walk from the San Juan Marriott, Budatai is the perfect place to enjoy a clash of Latin and Asian flavors. We started with the appetizer menu cleverly labeled “Los Dim Sum”. While everything on the menu is superb, my personal favorites were the tuna tar tar, the duck croquettes and the pork dumplings guisados served with shaved truffles.
As far as dessert goes, you can’t go wrong ordering the crème brûlée or well, really anything from the menu.
For a laid back lunch packed with Puerto Rican flavors, look no further than El Jibarito in Old San Juan. Conch salad, mofongo and home made coconut flan are just some of the dishes that make El Jibarito a local favorite. The prices are great and everyone in our party was more than full after their meal.
If you’re not quite sure what to order you can do what I did. Wander the premises and hungrily look at what every other patron has on their plate. When the time came to choose, I just pointed at whatever looked the best and said, “I’ll have what they’re having.” I ended up with the chicken in creole sauce accompanied by rice and beans. I was extremely satisfied with my choice.
A favorite among travelers to San Juan, Barrachina claims to be the birthplace of the original piña colada. The delicious and creamy rum-based drink was the highlight of our dining experience. If the piña colada doesn’t sell you, the Flamenco dancers surely will. We had the privilege of watching three extremely talented women stomp their feet and twirl their skirts to the staccato rhythm of the music.
While the piña coladas and Flamenco dancers were the icing on the cake, the food at Barrachina is not to be forgotten. Our table was covered in delicious dishes such as chicken neptune, mahi mahi fillet, and rib eye steak. Dessert followed with guava cheesecake, tres leches, vanilla flan, and rum cake. In our opinion, head to Barrachina for the Flamenco, but stay for the food.
Soleil Beach Club and Restaurant.
One of the most surprising culinary stops that we made was to Soleil Beach Club and Restaurant. The unassuming shack by the sea might have looked laid back, but their food packed a delicious punch. Sit on one of the wooden benches and enjoy an array of mouthwatering delights. The ceviche was extremely fresh and for someone that doesn’t even like seafood, I stuffed my face with bite after bite.
For an incredible culinary experience by the sea be sure to hit Soleil Restaurant. Try the sangria and go for a dip in the blue water after your meal. You won’t regret it.
Overall, our dining experiences in San Juan were absolutely fantastic. We were able to sample the most flavorful foods and left with a greater appreciation of the unique island flavors. A big thank you goes out to the San Juan Marriott and Diamond PR for hosting us. We had a delicious time.