Fried, fried and more deeply fried is usually what you think of when visiting Miami's most local vacation destination, Puerto Rico. That is, until now. On a recent visit to the country's coastal Rincon area, I discovered a new territory of flavors sprouting up in restaurants and bars along the beach. Whether filling your post-surf cravings or simply tasting the best cooked local produce, here are the top five meals to twist your tongue around while visiting this tropical haven.
1. Mahi Mahi with rice and beans accompanied by their "award-winning" mojito at Tamboo Tavern
This steals my number one spot, purely because of its simplicity, rich flavor, and ability to use all local ingredients. Grilled to perfection in a tomato glaze and served with accompaniments, this was the freshest local dish available. Chased with the crispiest mojito in town, it is sure to please any tourist.
2. Pad Thai and piña colada martini at Ode to the Elephants
While Thai cuisine might not be the first thing that comes to mind in Puerto Rico, it certainly suits the climate. The location for this place isn't half bad either; an elegantly decorated beach house with a starlit terrace where you can enjoy the best martinis around. My choice is the pad Thai brimming with peanuts, noodles and tangy lime shrimp. Combine your food with the unique piña colada martini (standard vacation drink with a twist) and sink into tropical bliss.
3. Trifongo with Mahi Mahi at Red Flamboyant
Triofongo is a standard Puerto Ricon dish; sweet plantains mashed to line a bowl of delciousness and topped with fresh grilled fish. This is not one to miss. Infused with the spices of the area, and sprinkled with hot sauce, it is the perfect combination of sweet and savory within a warm clay flask.
4. Starving Starving Roll and saki at The Pool Bar
This close to the ocean fresh fish cant get much better, especially when teamed with avocado, tempura shrimp and crabmeat rolled in a parcel of white rice. Combined with hot saki, this is sure to fill any wave-hunters appetite. Set back in a rainforest setting, dine by a dimly lit poolside lodge and watch silouttes of surfers projected each evening on large screen. This is a meal no surfer should miss in Puerto Rico.
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5. Fish pinchos and fish epanadillas & a mango strawberry smoothie at Steps Quick Lunch
The Puerto Rican tradition of pinchos or skewers us traditionally meat-based, but whether you are emerging from the ocean or a day at the waterfalls, Pool Bar offers grilled fish literally just caught from the ocean 10 meters away and serves it up from a small surf shack van to a line of hungry locals. The fish empanadillas aren't half bad either; with a choice of anything from shark to whitebait nestled in a pastry parcel. In the peak midday heat of Rincon sunshine, grab a pure fruit smoothie to accompany it, and take a seat under the shade of the palm to watch the most priceless view of the ocean imaginable.