A few months ago, a friend of Ervin’s mentioned he was opening a real Puerto Rican restaurant in LA. This is important because, while there are a bazillion places to get a decent taco, there are zero places to get authentic Puerto Rican food.
Which is a bummer if you’re my boyfriend, and you’re fresh(ish) off the island. He is quick to tell you any other place in LA, claiming authenticity, is really “New Yor-icans f****** it up.” So. The bar was set high. Go-go-gadget-monkey-bars high.
We snuck in without reservations for the soft opening in Atwater Village on Sunday, and were warmly welcomed with loud hellos and hugs. This is not the LA I know! These people seem glad that we’re here. What the —
Ervin greeted a bunch of friends, and I took in the lime green walls, painted all up in palm trees. “This is very Puerto Rico” Ervin said, as we made our way through the best dressed people this side of La Cienega Blvd. My eyes darted between leopard heels, hot pink capris, mini dresses and big ole jangly earrings. These are my people. If only I could speak Spanish to them. Aye dios mio.
The girl in the photo up top, was tall and creamy skinned, wearing this sweet pink skirt with a feminine flowered top and black pumps. Her hair was in one of those ponytails in “The Rum Diary”. I wanted to ask her if I could take her photo, but I lost my courage. Instead I took a picture of her bum. In my defense, it’s also a picture of the bums next to her.
Butt, back to the food.
When visiting a Puerto Rican restaurant, it’s important to arrive empty-stomached, and then eat as if you will never eat again. Even just trying little bits of everything, we had to take breaks. Our favs were the pork with caramelized onions (ate a good 50 lbs of that), pastelón – which is like meat lasagna but with plantains instead of noodles, cod fritters, and octopus salad (almost like octo-ceviche, with avocado mixed in). Super duper delicious.
And then someone brought coquito to the table. It’s like eggnog, but with coconut cream and milk. And a lot of Don Q rum. I am affectionately renaming it El Diablo Blanco. The white devil.
Satisfied that we had tried some of the best food we had tasted in a long time, we left a teeeeeny bit of space for dessert. I will admit, I had to use portions of my lungs to pack all of this in.
I have my high school Spanish I and II classes to thank for crushing any desire to ever taste flan – ever, in my life. Vivid memories of awkward, pimple-skinned classmates, carrying slimy, shivering specimens in too big casserole dishes, swimming with juices, swirled in my head.
Ervin took a fork-full and went to Heaven. Then so did our friends Crystal and Scott. Great. Now I had to try it.
A-maaaaa-ziiiing graaaaaace, how sweeeeeeet the souuuuuund. You guys. What I didn’t know, is that there are TWO kinds of flan! 1: Gross Spanish-class vanilla flan and 2. F*** ME AMAZING FLAN DE QUESO. Like a creamy, sweet cheesecake brulee.
You’ll lose your mind.Old San Juan Restaurant opens officially on January 18. They plan pig roasts on the weekends, a lush and lively back patio when the weather warms up, live music, imported Medalla Lite (beer of Puerto Rican champions) and hammocks (YES) out front between the palms.
We left, feeling like we’d just been to a party with friends. “That’s RIGHT!!” Ervin slapped his knee. It’s PUERTO RICO in Los Angeles! Arrrrriba! (<– That might be Mexican)