leave your inhibitions at the door
Trigger Warning: This article contains information about Puerto Rican food which may be triggering to Puerto Ricans or others who love Puerto Rican food. This especially holds true for my real-life friend/blog commenter Max Doinel, who was born and raised on the lovely island. Max, if this offends, let’s open some Pinot and you can try to convince me otherwise.
Outside of getting my pork fix on the first day, all of the meals we had that week were either Puerto Rican cuisine-inspired or just not Puerto Rican at all. We were riding around on a little sailboat and the guy from the hotel was waxing somewhat eloquently about some of the traditional dishes of the island. He was right. As a foodie I have the responsibility to get off the hotel property and eat like the locals do. And it’s not like we were in some place where eating like the natives involves grubs and other assorted insects stuffed inside fish bladders.
He suggested we go to the very edge of the Ritz property and walk a couple blocks into the town of Dorado. On the beach road there are few blocks of small, open-air restaurants serving fresh fish and other local favorites. He said the best of the bunch was Katrina Sea Food as they had the freshest fish and best mofongo – the mashed plantain dish that’s the pride of the island.
The front of the restaurant was an insane maritime/native museum that made absolutely no sense. Which in some ways is good because it’s more of a hole in the wall as opposed to some slick decor of a restaurant that spent more money on a decorator than a chef.
They had some t-shirts and other knick-knacks for sale and I almost got a bag of the coffee they were selling.
I had no idea whether it was any good, but I’m pretty sure the name translated to Motherfucker Coffee.
What We Ate
As a complimentary amuse-bouche of sorts, we each got a styrofoam cup with their signature fish broth.
It was pure umami, that fifth flavor taste best described as “savory”. It tasted like shit. I know it’s a liquid, but calling it piss would be too generous.
Meat and shrimp empanadillas
The dough was nicely done – light and flaky. The meat was just ok, not very spicy, and the shrimp one was had 85% less flavor.
Boom Boom got the fried Grouper with mofongo
Not good. Downright awful. All the locals we spoke to consider this the best way to have the fish. But this thing had the living daylights fried out of it. There was nothing left to eat on it.
I ordered the mofongo stuffed with octopus.
The octopus was fresh, but was a little rubbery and the sauce was just bland and lifeless.
As for the mofongo… I’m assuming that this is a good representation of it and I can certainly appreciate the dish. It’s starchy and can see where it’ll be a good with a better sauce or gravy on it.
I don’t get it. To hear natives there rave about their “national” dish you’d think it was like a Big Mac, hot dog, or slice of pizza. This is a side dish. It’s essentially mashed potatoes with more flavor. Not good flavor, mind you, just more. I’m SURE there’s some wonderful grandmother somewhere on the island that can make a mofongo that’ll stir the spirits, but I don’t want to sample any more of them to try to find that great show-stopping mofongo.
It’s hard to judge whether what he had was a true indication of how good Puerto Rican cuisine is, but evidence is pointing to Puerto Rican food just downright sucks – the preparation, the flavor profiles, the textures. Everything.
Except for the roasted pork. Because… well… ROASTED PORK.
Are you a fan of Puerto Rican food? Do you like mofongo? Am I right on that translation of the coffee label?