The Caribbean cuisine is influenced by a lot of things — the multiculturalism, natural bounty, and lately, a rising number of trained chefs who are introducing fine dining to Puerto Rico. By Shubhanjana Das
With fresh seafood, the plantain and its versatility, the succulent pork — the taste of this small island is as tantalising to the palette as it gets. To get a taste of Puerto Rico, you need to give the street-side empanadas as much of a shot as these restaurants who have pushed the culinary renaissance of the island considerably.
1. Jose Enriqué
Jose Enriqué in San Juan knows a thing or two about putting a twist to the traditional Puerto Rican fare picadillo, carne guisado or fried snapper. It’s quite a favourite amongst the locals and the hour-long (or more) queues shouldn’t surprise you since reservations are not possible here. But hey, anything for a contemporary Puerto Rican spread, right?
Word is that the best steak in San Juan comes from the kitchen of Chef Mario Pagán, one of Puerto Rico’s culinary masterminds. Your typical fare at Sage Steak Loft can be anything, but we recommend starting with the luxurious Angus beef carpaccio and black truffle-topped burrata. Follow it up with the silky and creamy lobster tagliatelle and bone marrow that is served with chunks of crusty sourdough.
To know good contemporary Puerto Rican cuisine, you need to know the traditional Puerto Rican fare and that’s exactly what La Casita Blanca serves. Literally translated as ‘the little white house’, La Casita Blanca still has its menu written on a chalkboard. The codfish fritters or the bacalaitos is their way of welcoming the guests followed by little bowls of plantain soup that is on the house.
4. La Estación
Let not the quirky aesthetic fool you into thinking that the kitchen is casual or laid back. After all, it takes an entourage to cook up the storm. We’re talking fresh-off-the-boat ceviche all the way to friend chicken and mac ‘n cheese. However, it is the barbeque that steals the show. Beef brisket, ribs, pulled pork all stuffed into a plantain canoe, where do we sign up?
Oceano is one of the highest-recommended restaurants in Puerto Rico. A two-storey restaurant overlooking the Atlantic, Oceano may be easy on the wallet but hardly so on the palette. The Puerto Rican and American classics sit side by side on the menu. With offerings like fish of the day, plantain chips and ropa vieja on one side to towering burgers on the other, Oceano is best for casual lunches.