Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jam Rum Bar + Bistro Moderne

My recent trip to Puerto Rico was fabulous! Lounging on the beach, ziplining in the rainforest, wandering around the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, watching the sunset at El Morro, touring the Bacardi distillery and drinking lots of delicious cocktails were not the only highlights of the trip, believe it or not. I enjoyed some really exquisite meals during my stay. I've already discussed the incredible experience I had dining on the Experience menu at Mi Casa, so now I will talk about one of my other favorite meals from the trip.

One of my friends who also recently visiting Puerto Rico and stayed in the same neighborhood in San Juan as I did (Condado) highly recommended Jam Rum Bar + Bistro Moderne, the sister restaurant to Marmalade in Old San Juan. After reading rave reviews online, I suggested it one night to my traveling companions. It was a short walk from our beautiful hotel, La Concha.

Immediately upon entering the restaurant, we were excited by the bright and vibrant colors, the cool and modern decor, and most of all the tantalizing menu, both for specialty cocktails and for food. We all started out with some cocktails. I tried a couple different ones throughout the night. The first is called Naughty Dragon. Let's be honest. That's the real reason I ordered this drink; the name. It contains raspberry rum, Grand Marnier, fresh grapefruit and sparkling wine. It is as delicious and refreshing as the name is awesome.

Naughty Dragon $11

The second drink I tried was recommended by the restaurant's owner, Mr. Ross, who wandered over to our table with a drink in his hand and a Southern drawl. We were pretty sure he was just a drunk patron who couldn't find the bathroom, but then later discovered that he, in fact, had moved to Puerto Rico years ago with his construction business and had decided to settle down there (after meeting and falling in love with "a little Puerto Rican lady") and purchase the restaurant! It was pretty random, but he was really nice and continued to check on us periodically.

Anyway, back to the drink. It's called Blind Bartender and contains spicy ginger juice combined with mango rum, fresh cilantro and a sliver of fresno chile pepper. It was spicy from the ginger, but refreshing and complex in its own way. This was a very popular drink around the table. Almost everyone ended up ordering one at some point during the meal.

Blind Bartender $11

We decided to share several starters before enjoying our entrees. The first was the Beef Tripleta Empanada, which is filled with ribeye, churrasco, and ground beef along with roasted onions and fresh cheese. It's served with whipped horseradish sauce. Delicious! I love empanadas and this is a well constructed play on a traditional turnover with more upscale elements.

Beef Tripleta Empanada $10

Another starter we tried was the Yucatan Ceviche, which contains local fresh fish of the day, sweet and spicy salsa "cruda," avocado and mango and is served with malanga chips. Over all this was nice and refreshing with many layers of flavor and texture.

Yucatan Ceviche $11

Perhaps my favorite starter was the Plantain Crusted Calamari. Unlike calamari rings, these calamari are served in strips with a mild anchovy-cilantro dipping sauce. I loved the texture and flavor of these fried strips; they were tender, not chewy at all, and really unique. I would definitely order this again next time.

Plantain Crusted Calamari $10

Our final starter was the Pork Quesadilla. It features a combination of provolone, pecorino and 3-chili cheese with slow-braised pulled pork, along with chipotle creme fraiche and a sesame seed pico de gallo. This is another elevated play on a classic. It beats a traditional quesadilla six days a week and twice on Sunday.

Pork Quesadilla $9

Even after this delicious spread, I have to say that my entree still managed to blow everything else out of the water. It was truly divine, one of my favorite dishes I've eaten in a long time. I opted for the Pastelon de Pernil, which is Puerto Rican roasted pork layered with homemade mashed potatoes, caramelized sweet plantains, and a gratin of cheese and finished with bits of longaniza sausage. Oh. My. Goodness. This dish was truly sensational. The pork was so rich and flavorful. The tender bites of pork had become nearly creamy with the marriage of mashed potato. Sweet bites of plantain studded the creation along with salty, melty cheese and chunks of meaty sausage. It took a kitchen sink scenario and made it sing... opera. I dream about this dish. I crave it. I would fly to Puerto Rico just to have it. Yes, it was that good.

Pastelon de Pernil $22

I am so grateful for the recommendation to try Jam Rum Bar, and also thrilled that my traveling companions got on board to give it a try as well. We were all very impressed by the food and drinks here, as well as the decor and service. Mr. Ross, the owner, was really funny and made a great recommendation on a drink that we all enjoyed. If you are visiting San Juan, especially if you are staying in the Condado neighborhood, you really have no excuse not to visit Jam Rum Bar. It was a delicious and memorable experience.

Jam Rum Bar + Bistro Moderne 
1400 Calle Magdalena
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00907


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