PR Restaurant Week – Asia and Beyond
At Spoon Food Tours, daily life entails introducing visitors on the island to some of the best Puerto Rican cuisine on offer. It ain’t a bad gig! This week however is truly special – it’s Puerto Rico Restaurant Week. Whoop whoop! Restaurants are offering special prix fixe menus. At $20 for lunch and $28 or $38 for dinner, including 3 courses, it truly is a bargain.
One of the single most frequently asked questions on our tours: “Where do the locals eat?” Puerto Rico Restaurant Week affords visitors to the island the opportunity to explore this question on their own. Paulina Salach and Gustavo Antonetti (owners of Spoon Food Tours and co-founders of PRRW) have hand-picked over 25 restaurants across the Island of Enchantment that are of superior quality. It’s easier to find great food when you have locals with impeccable taste guiding you in the right direction. They have meticulously uploaded all restaurant information and menu selections on the PRRW website.
Locals and tourists alike will be scouring the menus online to mine what appeals most to their palettes, making reservations, and then sitting in restaurants packed with a convivial charm. It is the perfect time to try restaurants that locals are trying, to witness the warmth and kindness of the residents, and to overhear Spanish colloquialisms! Sería brutal!
Over the course of the coming week we will be tasting as much as we possibly can without being forced to don muumuus and rent a forklift to carry us from restaurant to restaurant. We can’t taste it all, but we’ll certainly try. It’s arduous, selfless work, but someone has to do it! Where possible, we will highlight themes or questions we’ve received from guests on our tours.
First up, Asian-fusion. We get this question a lot. Puerto Rico is home to daring, experimental chefs who always aspire to draw upon new flavors and ingredients. While a restaurant might not be billed explicitly as Asian-fusion, it doesn’t mean that the chefs within aren’t toying and tinkering with unexpected styles.
One such restaurant is Gallo Negro in Santurce. The traditional tourist might not venture into this part of the city without being told to do so, but they ought to. Do it! Chef Maria Mercedes Grubb is a special woman with a wicked sense of humor, which makes its way onto the plate. Moving from her native Puerto Rico to Manhattan, she attended culinary school at the French Culinary Institute and worked for years under James Beard award winner Chef Gabriel Kreuther at the Modern, a renowned 3 star New York Times and a Michelin Star Alsatian restaurant.
Chef Maria’s erstwhile devotion to seasonality and local sourcing makes for fresh, exciting, ever-changing menus. Using unexpected ingredients however, her food takes on an international flare. On our recent visit we went from Puerto Rico with Duck Chicharrones, to Japan with a Curried Shrimp Fukuoka Udon Noodle, to France with her expert presentation, to Italy with an outstanding Berry Panna Cotta.
Charmingly, there is always a sense of play in Maria’s food. Check out her PRRW menu for prime examples including, An Upgrade Cup-O-Noodles. Made with nori, sesame oil, green peas, charred corn, and a perfectly cooked egg, this dish brings you back to your college dorm days without necessarily dropping you off in front of the communal showers or coin-operated laundry machines.
If you want to stay in the main tourist areas, visit Isla Verde and Condado. In Isla Verde, another chef experimenting with Asian flavors is Raul Correa of Zest. At the recent PRRW launch party he made a superb selection of various yakitori-style skewers including chicken livers and gizzards cooked over hot charcoals.
If you are in the mood for something more explicitly Asian-fusion, head to Budatai in Condado to visit renowned chef and television personality Roberto Treviño. His Chicken Potstickers in Soy Onion Broth or Budatai’s signature Beef Brisket with Scallion Egg Fried Rice, are sure to please.
Head to the PRRW website and get hungry! Oh, and remember, make reservations!