It’s taken a few weeks to get this blog post together but it’s finally here – my annual best of 2012. The first two were unique and fantastic in every way. The next three are the best of Puerto Rico followed by the three best in Las Vegas and finally, the two best casual eats, one from a food truck here in Dorado and another from a beach shack in Anguilla. All in all, 10 of my most memorable meals of the year. Enjoy and I look forward to more new restaurant discoveries in 2013!
A mid-year find on a long weekend mini-break to Miami. Pubbelly is a gastronomic casual restaurant created by three partners – two Puerto Ricans and one Spanish, which has taken Miami by storm. After this first foray, they have created four other successful casual eateries – Pubbelly Sushi for modern sushi, Barceloneta for Spanish tapas, Macchialina, an Italian salumeria and trattoria and about a week ago, PB Steak. These boys have got their concepts down and manage to create a casual atmosphere loved by locals and still serve amazing food. The menu at Pubbelly is mostly Asian-inspired but there were a few Spanish-influenced tapas as well. Here’s what we had in July.
Another memorable summer meal was at ABC Kitchen located in the fantastic ABC Carpet & Home. Just over a year old and promoting local and organic ingredients, this was pared down comfort food that was all about the ingredients – assorted lukewarm roasted beets tossed in yoghurt, slices of heirloom tomato with just a sprinkling of salt on crusty bread, just-picked tiny radishes with cold sweet butter and bread – everything was delicious! The service was friendly, the place casual and the menu so enticing that I can’t wait to go back.
This was our first dinner out in San Juan, right after we moved to Puerto Rico in March and has remained a favorite since. Santaella manages to serve a modern take on Puerto Rican cuisine in an unfussy location near the Plaza del Mercado. Food is good, service is friendly and the place is always packed with locals – what more can one ask for?
A recent addition to the Condado scene, Blonda is another casual restaurant that knows what it’s doing – simple food in great location with probably, the best brunch in San Juan. There’s valet parking, bookings taken on Open Table and good food in a light-filled space.
For classic Spanish fare, there is no place better than Compostela – the interiors are modern but nothing special, come here for the food and the excellent selection of wines. Every meal we’ve had here has been exceptional – the menu authentic, the ingredients fresh, the presentation simple, the service efficient and the experience always delicious.
The best coffee in Las Vegas. Ever since they opened in 2011, they have been the only place in Las Vegas for proper coffee in all forms and shapes, from espresso to flat white, from cappuccino to mocha, from pour over brewed coffee to Aero Pres, from granita to affogato – they have proper coffee making and presentation figured out. I never skip my Sambalatte morning cappuccino when I’m in Vegas and always stop by to say hello to the friendly owner, Luis.
Located in the same nondescript mall as other cult Japanese restaurants, Raku and Monta, Kabuto is a tiny restaurant with just three tables and an adequate sushi counter where the edomae sushi (Tokyo style super fresh sushi) is presented nightly using only the freshest fish and seafood and served slowly, one by one to be enjoyed. This is the way sushi and sashimi should always be – no tricks, no mayonnaise, no fancy rolls – just fresh fish, perfectly seasoned vinegar rice, crisp seaweed, a tiny dot of wasabi and a dash of premium soy sauce.
In the same area as Sambalatte, Honey Salt is so new that I haven’t even blogged about my lunch there yet (post coming soon) but, believe me, this is the restaurant future for Las Vegas – trained chefs and experienced food and beverage operators band together to create their own restaurant concept. Honey Salt is homey and the farm to table food is very good, but best of all, the minute one walks in, one can sense that the people behind the scenes know what they’re doing from the logos, table settings, decor, menus and seamless service that there really is no longer a need to dine well just in a fancy Vegas hotel. Here’s to a burgeoning trendy off-strip restaurant scene in Las Vegas!
BEST STREET/BEACH FOOD
Blanchards Beach Shack If ever I open another restaurant, this is what I want it to be – simple food, a great outdoor setting and casual atmosphere. Blanchards on the beautiful Mead’s Bay beach in Anguilla is probably the best beach shack restaurant concept I’ve ever eaten in and for someone who’s lived on several islands, that’s the highest compliment ever. Food is simple, containers are recycled, service is quick, prices and reasonable. Blanchards Beach Shack gives fast food a great reputation.
NanoBox Last but not least, is this Dorado food truck run by two brothers passionate about food and serving their modern version of Puerto Rican street food. It’s a great way to taste what the island has to offer and although their menu is limited, what they serve is pretty good so it’s worth it to stop by for a snack on the weekend when this shiny white brand new food truck is parked just behind the Walgreen’s in Dorado. __________________________________________ Listed by location, in alphabetical order: Anguilla – Blanchards Beach Shack Las Vegas – Honey Salt Kabuto Sambalatte