Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Work... in Paradise? Yes, Please!

by Xani

Two great work locations in a row? Unheard of! Absurd! But true... Right on the heels of my trip to San Francisco I headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico for another business trip. I had been looking forward to this one for a while, having never been to the Caribbean before (save for an ill-fated spring break trip to Cancun in college... lets never speak of that again), and looking forward to brilliant blue waters and swaying palm trees.

After a relatively short flight from Baltimore, I arrived at the El San Juan Hotel and Casino and was surprised to find... rain. Boo! Luckily that only lasted for one day, and bright and early the next morning I was sipping a frozen mojito poolside, with beautiful settings all around.

That evening a group of us headed to Old San Juan for dinner at a highly recommended restaurant, Dragonfly. Alas, there was some confusion about our reservation, and there was going to be a 2 hour wait for a table. Since it was already after 9pm, we decided instead to head next door to Aquaviva, which happens to have the same owners as Dragonfly-- go figure! Aquaviva was another highly recommended place, and a little more up my alley, cuisine-wise (Aquaviva is Latin-inspired seafood, while Dragonfly is supposedly a fusion-y place with hibachi (?) grills at the tables...yeah. Not my thing. If I want dinner and a show, I'll see Cirque de Soleil AFTER the meal, thank you.) We were seated promptly at Aquaviva and ordered wine and some delicious and refreshing watermelon sangria as we perused the menu.

Custom Hand-blown Glass Jellyfish Lamps

Watermelon Sangria

The place pretty clearly catered to tourists (all the menu items were in English...well, more like Spanglish, but still) but there seemed to be lots of authentic dishes on the menu alongside the strangely out-of-place cheesy bread and crab gorditas--ick. Right away the variety of ceviches caught my eye, there were six kinds listed on the menu as well as a daily special, and diners could choose just one or, or samplings of 2, 3 or all 6 ceviches. I chose two, the shrimp and clam green ceviche as well as one with a local, mild fish and coconut milk. They showed up beautifully plated with some just-made tostones (flattened fried plantains) on the side.

Both ceviches were incredibly FRESH. The fish and shellfish tasted like they might have been swimming earlier that day (maybe they were?) and I loved every bite. The "green" ceviche had lots of scallions and avocado, and the coconut milk one had a great balance of acidity, heat, and sweetness. Delicious!

For the main course I ordered paella. Aquaviva had an interesting spin on theirs as they used Israeli couscous instead of regular rice, which I really enjoyed. It also had mussels, big chunks of chorizo, and scallops.

Other than the fact that I don't particularly like scallops (these were very good actually, but one scallop is pretty much my limit) the paella was awesome. If I could have changed one thing, it would have been a big lobster tail on top instead of all those scallops!

No dessert for me... in fact I didn't eat dessert all week! The dessert options in PR were usually limited to flan and other flan-like dishes, which are really not my thing.

I didn't take pictures of any other meals in PR, although we did have some good ones. We visited Metropol (which was mentioned several times on Chowhound, and had been recommended by a friend) twice, once for dinner and again for lunch, and it was excellent and affordable. We splurged on a steak dinner at The Palm, which had a location in the hotel, and enjoyed great steaks and a delicious red wine. All in all, a successful and relaxing trip to Puerto Rico. I hope to go back sometime soon!



  1. I love ceviche, but rarely order it here. South American food just doesn't really make it out this way

  2. Oi. I am SO jealous. (of both the surroundings and the ceviche)


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