Published on June 3rd, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Zest, at the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel, Puerto Rico
|Zest, the new gourmet restaurant at the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, combines a hip vibe with creative upscale cuisine.|
BY MARK CHESNUT
During my recent visit to San Juan, my partner Angel and I dined at one of the newest and hippest Puerto Rico hotel restaurants: Zest, a very cool place located in the beachfront Isla Verde district, at the San Juan Water Beach Club Hotel (well-traveled Caribbean island-hoppers may still remember the recently renovated hotel as the Water Club or the San Juan Water and Beach Club). Here is a taste of what we experienced.
|Zest restaurant features the creations of Chef Raul Correa Soto.|
THE VIBE: The recently opened restaurant continues the hotel’s hip, contemporary style, with soothing blue lights, white tongue chairs, and wave-like lighting effects to give the venue a decidedly sub-marine feel. The eatery is on the first floor of the hotel, replacing a former second-floor restaurant (that space is now available for private events and meetings). Lounge-style music provided a subdued but constant beat to our meal experience, and service was extremely attentive, with multiple wait staff checking in on us, always ready with detailed explanations of the multiple dishes and drinks we sampled — from creatively tropical cocktails to gourmet empanadas and seafood.
|Salud: The Piragua Club, one of the icy-cool tropical drinks served at Zest in Puerto Rico.|
THE CUISINE: Nearly every dish at Zest, which features the creations of Chef Raúl Correa Soto, carries some kind of a contemporary, creative twist. We started with tropical drinks from the bar: an icy-cool Piragua Club (cachaça, Cointreau and mango puree), a super-creamy Playa Colada (a smooth, delicious blend of Bailey’s, Myers rum, Piña Colada and banana puree), accompanied by soft, warm pan de casa, which was enhanced with a slight touch of Nutella. Our appetizers included Osso Bucco (tasty lamb empanadas with caramelized maduros, energized by a tiny topping of fresh citrus gremolata) and Blue-Pear (blue cheese and grilled pear dumplings, served with a dropper of port wine reduction), which was a treat for the taste buds.
|Lamb empanadas with citrus gremolata, served at Zest restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico.|
A soothing guava granite served as a palate cleanser before we moved on to the main course: mouthwatering, pan-fried snapper topped with ajilimojili (a semi-sweet sauce made from peppers, garlic and vinegar) served atop a bed of mashed plaintain mofongo with a saffron chorizo broth. Angel had a delicious glazed poached salmon, served with a garbanzo pancake, pineapple tomato chutney and enhanced with a bit of chichaito (a liquor made from anise rum).
|Sweet dreams: Puerto Rican desserts get a creative gourmet makeover at Zest restaurant.|
The finale was an indulgent sample platter of several desserts, some with their inspiration from Puerto Rican desserts and others from around the globe — we especially enjoyed the cinnamon donuts served with tiramisu pot de crème and Nutella powder, as well as the chocolate lava cake and basil ice cream with raspberry coulis. It was a truly delicious and indulgent way to wrap up the evening. Afterwards, we took the glass elevator (which has its own waterfall streaming down one wall) to the top floor to check out Mist, the rooftop bar/restaurant, which offers an equally cool vibe and pleasing views of the ocean and Isla Verde.
BEST FOR: Zest is an ideal venue for anyone looking for contemporary cuisine and a hip vibe. Its location in Isla Verde makes it convenient for business and leisure travelers in the neighborhood, and it’s just a few minutes by car from hotels in other parts of the San Juan metro area. Main courses $19-$32.
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