Sunday, December 4, 2016

El Jibarito

Two years ago today, we were on the Quantum of the Seas, finally arriving at our first port, San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was A's first time in San Juan and M's second (previously there for a business trip). Unfortunately the ship didn't get to San Juan until late afternoon, and with that type of scheduling, you couldn't visit the rainforest or do much sightseeing because it was almost dark. By the time we got off the ship, there wasn't a lot of time to do very much other than stroll Old San Juan and get something to eat. 

We had narrowed down the dinner options in Old San Juan before the trip, and the one we picked was El Jibarito, a centrally located restaurant specializing in local dishes, which had been around for decades. We started off the meal with some juices - acerola/Puerto Rican sour cherry and maracuya/passion fruit. The passion fruit one was nice and sweet, and the sour cherry one had a really familiar taste that we couldn't place at the time (and still can't). A got the sour cherry, and M got the passion fruit, but we obviously shared.

After our double lunch, M wasn't really that hungry when we got to the restaurant (but we couldn't find anything else to do at the time other than to just go to dinner). Instead of getting an entree, she got two appetizers for her meal. (We were sharing anyway so we could try as much as possible, so this meant we could try even more.)

The first appetizer was the alcapurrias, plantain fritters stuffed with beef. These had a general meat taste and were very deeply fried. M isn't as big a fan of just "meat" flavors so she was a little disappointed by these, but overall they were still okay. For A, they just seemed like wonton wrapped, deep-fried meat sticks.

The second appetizer was the bacalaitas, flat, saucer-like cod fritters. We had never had cod fritters in such a flattened shape before, but they were pretty good. Unfortunately neither of us really remembers much about these two years later, but our guess is that we both preferred these more as bacalaitas are more our style than that type of fried ground meat.

M's mom and A both got variations on the same entree - camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce). This entree was better than both of M's appetizer choices, and we were glad we ordered it.

The shrimp dish was full of garlic flavor, and featured shrimp mixed with onions and green peppers in a butter sauce. This was so good. It had a heavy but not overpowering garlic flavor that paired nicely with the sweet shrimp. The onions and green peppers also added some nice freshness to the dish.

Each entree came with a choice of rice, plantains, or mofongo, and the mofongo itself had a bunch of options. A chose to go with the trifongo (also called the mixed mofongo), which combined sweet plantain, green plantain, and yuca (cassava). All three were mashed up together and fried, and it paired so well with the garlicky shrimp. M liked this so much that she put it on her favorites list from 2014. A had read about and often wanted to try mofongo so this was a great experience for him, and he's glad that it was so tasty.

We really enjoyed visiting El Jibarito, and it was nice to get some Puerto Rican food while we were in San Juan. While there were some tourists there, there were also locals, so it didn't feel like a total tourist trap. We would definitely go back there for some more shrimp and mofongo if we found ourselves in Old San Juan again.

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