Friday, January 16, 2009

Soleil Beach Club: A Warning

I couldn't even look at my fried snapper. Not pictured are the almost-but-not-tolerable appetizers.

Few restaurants are as highly marketed to San Juan tourists as the Soleil Beach Club in Piñones. You will see their pamphlet in just about every hotel lobby, along with a very impressive menu and a voucher for a free piña colada.

So my gut is to tell you that this place is a scam. That might be a little unfair, however. Perhaps if I had been wondering around Piñones beach in the daytime and stumbled upon this place, my opinion wouldn't be so harsh. But I feel I was tricked into believing that this place was something that it's not, and was wholeheartedly disappointed, maybe even a little angry, about the experience. Let me explain.

I should have known right away that any restaurant that needs to advertise that much and provides free transportation might be a little suspicious, but I totally fell into the trap. I actually thought that free transportation sounded great, it meant we could drink as much as we wanted and would get picked up and dropped off at our door. Trying to arrange for a pick up was a fiasco in and of itself, and we were greeted by what was by far the most psychotic and reckless driver of all times. I think the drunk girls in the back of the van thought they were on a roller coaster, screaming every time we almost hit another car or pedestrian, and yelling at the driver when we would veer into oncoming traffic. This is true, Abby can vouch for it. On top of that, when we were done with our meal, the driver "didn't feel like" making two trips back to San Juan, so we had to wait for those drunk girls to finish getting MORE drunk (a good 45 minutes) before he would take us back. And THEN, his driving was substantially worse on the way back, so much so that eventually we had him pull over and drop us off more than a mile away from home because we were convinced we would be in an accident.

As far as the vibe of this place. Well, we went at night, so it's a little harder to say, but it is definitely NOT as luxurious as it looks in the pamphlet. And I suppose you could say it is beach front except you have a better view of a huge parking lot in front of the beach than the actual beach itself. There were very few people there, everything was dark, it was kind of scary, actually. I really think they used a lot of trick photography for their advertising. But let's talk about the food. Yuck. Probably one of my worst meals in Puerto Rico. The appetizer was gross, my fish was so gross that I just covered it up with my napkin so I didn't have to look at it. Abby was not impressed with the chicken either. I think the piña coladas were okay, made with the same Island Oasis drink mix that far too many Puerto Rican bars and restaurants have adopted. We left wholly unsatisfied.

Abby was positively underwhelmed by her chicken.

Overall, if you are on a romantic vacation and expecting an elegant "beach club"/fine dining dinner experience, be forewarned. If you're already at the beach in Piñones and are super curious, go for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you. I would also like to mention that there are lots of other smaller "mom & pop" type places to eat in Piñones, and I really wish that I had visited them instead of being sucked in by Soleil's marketing scheme. If you've had a different experience at Soleil, I'd love to hear about it, but suffice it to say that I will not be visiting Soleil on my next trip to Puerto Rico.

Carretera 187 KM 4.6
Piñones, PR

Monday, January 12, 2009

SWF seeks Arroz con Gandules Recipe for LTR

Okay, I've tried making Arroz con Gandules in a number of ways, and I just can't find a recipe that I really like that I can stick with. I know there are many ways to make it, but somehow whenever I do it, it ends up too bland or too salty. Anyone have any specific suggestions or tried and true recipes? I'm getting a little desparate! Help!

*By the way, this post was triggered by Tyler Florence's episode of "Tyler's Ultimate," where he makes smashed caramelized plantains, pernil, and apparently "arroz de gandules." I have to give him a wag of the finger for getting the name of such a popular Puerto Rican dish incorrect, but I will give him a tip of the hat for at least attempting to feature Puerto Rican food on the Food Network.

My Puerto Rico mommy serving up some rice and beans