I knew before leaving for Puerto Rico that I wanted to enjoy one uber fancy, most likely to be pricey, foodie meal in Puerto Rico. Because I'm neurotic, I scoured the internet for ideas and decided that I would either dine at Dragonfly or Aguaviva, both of which are apart of Puerto Rico's OOF! Restaurant Group. The two are located right next door to each other on Forteleza street, so I was really torn, going from one menu to the other. The manager of Aguaviva was standing outside and laughing at my dilemma, eventually luring me in with talk of a lobster stuffed snapper. Sold.
Aguaviva is trying to bring a hip, swank, yuppie NYC, DC, Miami vibe to Old San Juan. The decorations were clean and modern, kitchen was visible, and the bar had high chairs and booths had fluffy pillows. Here's the view from my seat:
360 View of Aguaviva from my seat from kashiad on Vimeo.
I moved on to try the raw oysters, something that Aguaviva advertises heavily. The oysters change daily and while I was dining I got to try the Blue Point and Virginia oysters served on the half shell. I'd never tried raw oysters before, the concept grossed me out, but I'm really glad I gave them a try because I fell in love.
After a bit of a wait, our food finally arrived. I ordered the bribery dish--A whole fried red snapper, stuffed with lobster mofongo. I soon regretted my decision. Before I get into the review of the fish, let me explain that my first memory of fried red snapper was in Panama where the fish is scored, stuffed with seasoning, and fried to perfection. Fastforward. Despite a pretty epic presentation, the fish had no flavor...really, a Captain D's batter would have given me better justice. Adding to the disappointment of the fish, the "lobster" mofongo barely had visible pieces of the crustacean and on its own it was dry...a deadly sin for the smashed plaintains. I couldn't even finish it, and wished I had more oysters.
My boyfriend's dish fared no better and seemed to suffer from food ADD. His seafood risotto was smokey because of the bacon, but since all the fat did not get rendered off, the bacon was chewy which is in my eyes immoral and an amateurish culinary misstep. Calamari, shrimp, and scallops were the sea creatures present in the risotto, but none really had a flavor as the cheese** and chewy bacon dominated the starch and its sea friends. Also, the scallops on the dish itself were a bit undercooked, giving way to a weird stringy texture. Also, the weirdest thing of all is that it was topped with what I concluded to be lemon infused coconut. There was just too much going on.
The chef made me a personal batch (each serving is made to order so you can't exactly "sample" them) of lobster mashed potatoes since I'd mentioned to our server that I wanted to try (and blog about) them. I found it absolutely ridiculous that the lobster mashed potatoes had more lobster in them than my lobster mofongo! Furthermore, the potatoes were quite salty which overpowered the natural sweetness of lobster, but did have a nice hint of cream and were the perfect texture. Overall: I'm glad I was sampling them and not paying for them as I would have been slightly incensed.
To end my meal, I ordered the vanilla creme brulee and watched like a little kid as the cook grabbed the torch and started caramelizing the sugar. I grew concerned as I felt that he was torching for far too long, and my fears were confirmed when my dessert arrived....burnt. SIGH. I took my spoon and cracked away the burnt sugar to find a delightful custard underneath. The custard had a consistancy of moouse and had a nice, but not overpowering vanilla flavor. The strawberry garnish paired nicely and lightened things up.
All in all Aguaviva has great service, an innovative menu, and fresh seafood. However, the flavors are still lacking and basic culinary missteps ruin classic and simple flavors. I would say stop in to Aguaviva for some appetizers (hint: raw oysters or ceviche) and a cocktail, but head elsewhere for dinner.
364 Calle La Fortaleza
Old San Juan, San Juan
Food: 2.5 out of 5 fros
Service: 5 out of 5 fros
*I discovered during my cocktail that I'm allergic to starfruit!
**Cheese + Seafood = Hot mess