Published on June 27th, 2011 | by Mark Chesnut
Delicious: 3 Hot New Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico
|Table talk: Casa Lola is one of the hot new restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico.|
BY MARK CHESNUT
Any worthwhile Puerto Rico vacation is likely to include a lot of good food and refreshments. And in the San Juan metropolitan area, Ashford Avenue — a major artery for hotels, shopping, dining and drinking in the Condado district — continues to be an axis of good taste. During my recent visit (which is actually just wrapping up as I write this), I discovered several hot new restaurants that have opened in the past months along Ashford Avenue. Here are three of the best.
1. Casa Lola: Celebrity chef Roberto Treviño has created another winner in San Juan with Casa Lola, which occupies a mansion that was previously home to a restaurant called Ajili Mojili. The vibe is contemporary elegant, with violet-hued walls, soaring arches and high ceilings creating a pleasant setting for the friendly and efficient service and nouveau criollo cuisine. A creative cocktail list is presented upon arrival, with drinks including Amapola rum punch sangria and Guarapo de Lola, which is made with Bacardi rock coconut, Bacardi select and sugar cane juice.
When it comes to the food, I especially liked the rich and filling piononos, a kind of pastry made with plantains and meat and served as an appetizer. The churrasco (skirt steak) was tasty and complemented by a flavorful sauce. If you’re looking to sample even more new creations from Chef Treviño, check out Bar Gitano and El Barril, which are his other recent additions to the Ashford Avenue dining scene.
2. Perurrican: This outpost of a long-standing popular Puerto Rican-Peruvian fusion restaurant in Guaynabo opened a few months ago in the lobby of the San Juan Beach Hotel, which has gradually been upgrading its overall ambiance with a trendy lobby (and, even more gradually, renovated hotel rooms). Lunch specials offer the best value, but the restaurant’s dimly lit stylishness attracts its best crowd on weekend evenings. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor dining, as well as a central, glass-enclosed kitchen where you can watch the cevichero work wonders with freshly prepared ceviche as you sip pisco sours at the bar.
The menu at Perurrican includes classic and contemporary Peruvian favorites with Puerto Rican flair, and our waiter was especially friendly and helpful, going so far as to suggest that two full dinners might be too much for my partner and me after we indulged in a generous appetizer of anticuchos (fish shish kabobs). We took his advice and shared a gigantic, whole snapper prepared with onions and tomato, accompanied by mofongo (mashed plantains). When the kitchen closes, the restaurant becomes a lounge-style hangout for well-dressed locals and visitors. Perurrican is a noteworthy addition to San Juan’s ongoing love affair with Peruvian cuisine (which is also well represented at the stylish Lima, in Miramar, and funky P’al Cielo, in Santurce).
3. Di Zucchero Restaurant & Lounge: Across the street from the Marriott sits this new eatery, which opened in December 2010 with indoor and outdoor seating and a lounge-like vibe to complement its Italian fare, which ranges from antipasti and bruschetta to pasta and pizza. The lively, friendly ambiance at Di Zucchero is a big selling point for its patrons; you can take a seat outdoors to people watch or a table inside for a bit more privacy, or head to the second-floor lounge for special events including fashion shows, drink samplings and live Djs and music.
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