I recently saw a Groupon for a culinary experience in Italy. I clicked on the link and considered it for a moment. I think we all go on vacation to unwind, re-charge but also to experience the food.
First Stop – Rio Mar:
My family and I arrived in Puerto Rico Christmas Eve. The flight was a non-stop flight from JFK to San Juan. We drove about an hour or so to Rio Mar, where we checked in to the Wyndham Hotel.
The hotel was lovely. The pool and the beach were outside the back of the hotel. The pools were really nice however, the beach was gorgeous and we didn’t want to be anywhere else. The sand was the color of clay and the water was a teal blue. It was set in the middle of an enclave that was surrounded by lush greenery.
The beaches at the Wyndham Rio Mar were magnificent. I’m not really a beach person and I didn’t want to leave.
The first night we ate in the hotel restaurant called, Palio, an Italian Restaurant. It was beautifully decorated and intimate. Although we waited for nearly an hour to get in, our reservation was for 7 and they didn’t take us until after 8 pm, the hostess offered us a a round of drinks. They treated us royally and we had a magnificent dinner. By doing the right thing, the taste of the food and the service, I would give them an “A.”
The next night, we decided to go Asian and booked a reservation at the hotel restaurant called, Shimas. The food was also delicious. We had an array of sushi, stir fry and an assortment of dumplings. It was yummy. Everything seemed to melt in your mouth. The only negative comment I would make would be that the sushi and the stir fry were a little spicy. So with the various tastes, less the spicy flavors (because I’m not a big spicy person), I would give it an “A-.”
Next Stop: Fajardo Inn
The next morning, we drove 20 minutes or so to the Fajardo Inn. It was a lovely place that reminded me of something I would see in Mexico. The rooms were simply furnished but huge, much bigger than the room at the Wyndham, but the hotel itself wasn’t as nice. It was set on a hill. To get to the pool and the mini golf course, you had to go down a hill. To eat breakfast, you had to walk up the hill. Since the food at the hotel was barely edible and the service was despicable, I’m not going to rate it here. Let me give you a glimpse of what happened —
We walked in and asked for a table of four. The hostess/waitress asked if we wanted to sit in a small room with three loud infants. We told her we would prefer the main dining room, which was open and colorful. She told us that we would have to wait for the dining room to be cleaned. At first, I thought she would just clean one table and seat us, but as we stood there, we realized that she meant that she needed to clean every table first before seating us. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t take in one cup and one plate at a time! After about 20 minutes, we were seated.
If you think that was bad, we waited for our order to be taken and then for the food to come out. The coffee didn’t get to the table until we asked her nearly three times. You would have also thought that everything would have been at least warm. No such luck! The eggs, french fries and even oatmeal were on the cool side.
Besides going to the Seven Seas Beach in Fajardo, which was truly magnificent and called the Seven Seas because there are seven shades of blue in the water, we went on a catamaran to the bio illumination bay. There we took a long boat ride to a bus to another bus to a boat where we sailed on Mosquito Bay and saw the most incredible sight. The water illuminates at night and is a sight not to miss. I could have skipped the transportation portion of the trip but the bay was definitely worth seeing. (If you get car sick like I do, take something before going on the boat!)
The most memorable meal in Fajardo was at La Estacion. It was a funky restaurant where you sat outside and had authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. We ate traditional Mofongo, fish and steak. The fried banana covered in vanilla ice cream was the perfect ending to an incredible meal. Well worth making a reservation! “A.”
Next stop: San Juan
We stayed at the Best Western, a block away from the beach. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Best Westerns can be hit or miss depending on where you stay, but the one in San Juan was really nice. We stayed on the 11th floor and had an obstructed view of the water. The room was nicely decorated and comfortable. The lobby was modern and they even offered beach chairs and towels for the beach! The pool was very small and cold.
The first night we went to Oceano, a modern, south beach looking restaurant that offered an assortment of tropical drinks along with traditional wines and other beverages. Since my son went to meet his friend, there were only three of us and we started with a tuna tartare, which I felt was a little too spicy. Next, we had scallops over sweet potato, shrimp mofongo and red snapper. They were all very tasty, the red snapper was particularly good. The service was incredible. They kept giving us an update on our food order. I never saw that before! This was another recommendation. I would give it an “A.”
The second night we went to Marmalade in Old San Juan. They had a price fix dinner where we selected the four course meal. (You could have a six course meal.) Our first course, we had Tuna Poke, Paella, lobster risotto and popcorn shrimp, with real popcorn. They were each superb, however, the popcorn was stale. The best dish of the four was the Lobster Risotto or the Paella, which was four round shot glass shaped portions. It melted in your mouth.
Next came the signature white bean soup, which at first I thought I would not like. However, guests who posted on Yelp, loved it. I actually agreed. It was one of the best soups I have had. The main course consisted of poached snapper in a thai curry coconut sauce, beef tenderloin in a wine reduction over garlic mashed potatoes, Sea Bass which was pan roasted over green rice; and Scallops with mushroom, bok choy and other Asian vegetables. We finished the meal off with a delicious Banana Bread Pudding with Ice Cream. The food was good. It wasn’t the best meal I ever had but it was definitely worth the visit. My daughter and I had the wine tasting with each course, which definitely added to the flavors of the meal. The highlight came when the chef came out and greeted us. I would give this restaurant an “A.”
Was Puerto Rican food worth visiting Puerto Rico? I would definitely say so. I was impressed with the quality and caliber of the food and it tasted amazing!
The beach…Great imagery to have during this cold winter in the Northeast! I think I’ll go grab a tropical snack too… 🙂 Thanks for the post!
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