LA ISLA DEL ENCANTO
Puerto Rico’s official nickname is “The Island of Enchantment,” and you will certainly feel that same magic at La Placita, Chef José Mendín and Latin American TV and soap opera star, Julian Gil’s, latest Miami venture. This eatery in the MiMo district takes you right into San Juan, with PR memorabilia and décor decorating the walls like Taíno (the former native people of PR) masks, variations of the flag, baseball plaques, and more. Even a trip to the bathroom drops you right into the island—when you shut the door, the relaxing, charming sounds of the coquí (PR’s native tree frog) erupt from hidden speakers.
After admiring the decorations, my guest and I sat down and proceeded to order. I’m Puerto Rican, so naturally, I was eager to test out some of the dishes my very own parents had whipped up at home for years! Our first dish, Alcapurrias, arrived. In this nontraditional version, the fried green banana dough acts as a platform, and the ropa vieja (shredded beef) lies on top. I actually loved this creative and unique way of doing it. The juicy ropa vieja was seasoned and rich with cilantro and other explosive flavors, while the dough on the bottom was fried and crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. The dish came with four little bites, and I savored each and every one!
STOP, DROP, AND MOFON(GO)
One of the most popular dishes at La Placita is the mofongo, and it’s easy to see why—they certainly know what they’re doing! Their “Mofongo Shop” allows you to start with a base (either green plantain, or a mixture of green plantain, yuca, and sweet plantain), and then you can pick however many proteins you desire. My guest and I received a hefty amount of proteins: ropa vieja, garlic shrimp, pollo guisado (stewed chicken), and Loíza -Style Crab Stew. The mofongo also came with a side of soy sauce as it’s necessary to add moisture to the mashed up plantains. I poured the soy sauce all over, and then proceeded to mix in the various meats. Everything was mouthwatering, brilliant, and addicting, but my favorite was undoubtedly the crab stew. Soft, juicy, and bursting with flavor, it tasted like the crab had just emerged out of an impeccably seasoned soup made by mi abuela. The garlic shrimp was also delightful. Plump and meaty with a buttery garlic sauce glazed over them, they accompanied the green plantain very well. Simply put, if you don’t order this delicacy at La Placita—you’re missing out on the best dish in the house!
By Aaliyah Pasols