When my well-traveled coworker recommended Marmalade for dinner in San Juan, I didn’t think much of it. I figured it would be a decent meal, even though she reassured me it was one of the best restaurants in the city. I grossly underestimated Marmalade — it was one of the better (top 3, perhaps) dining experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. I was not expecting to be craving their white bean soup days later… but here I am…
Marmalade is rather unassuming from the outside, you might even miss it (we walked by at least twice earlier in the day without realizing) but from the moment we stepped inside the restaurant, we were impressed. The decor was chic, modern, and tasteful. The lighting moody, but not too dark. I was hoping the food would live up to this great first impression. Drinks were ordered, a “Kiwi Libre” for me (fresh kiwi, white rum, and lime), and a glass of red wine, as we deciphered the menu and decided on the four course tasting option.
Picking out my first course was easy. Lobster risotto? Done. Perfectly cooked lobster floated atop a pillowy pile of tender risotto. We also tried the ceviche, which was an interesting mix of red snapper, jicama, avocado, lime and a citrusy dressing. Served atop tostones baked with basil, the flavors were bright and refreshing. Of the two, I think the ceviche was more interesting and had a unique flavor.
The second course on the tasting menu was the truffled white bean soup, Marmalade’s signature dish. After reading some reviews on Yelp and hearing everyone rave about this soup, I knew I wanted to try it. It’s hard to put into words just how delicious this soup is. Soup isn’t one of those dishes that you would describe as mind-blowing, but this soup was just that. Smooth and creamy, pureed white beans and scallions create the base of the soup. Black truffle oil is drizzled in, and crisp-fried pieces of pancetta “dust” sprinkled on top. The truffle oil gives this an amazing flavor while the pancetta provides just the right touch of saltiness. I could go on, but I really think this is something you need to taste for yourself. Hopefully, I’ll be able to recreate it so that you don’t have to board a plane to San Juan to experience this soup! Would it be crazy to make a pilgrimage for soup? Probably.
My entree was one of the most unique looking dishes that has even been laid before me. My mero looked like it had just come from a coconut-infused bubble bath. The fish was perfectly cooked, a departure from the over-cooked fish dishes we’ve become accustomed to in restaurants. Underneath the mero was a delicately flavored jasmine rice, and the coconut-lime foam laced together the flavors of this dish.
The second entree was red snapper, sesame-crusted and topped with shrimp dumplings. The red snapper, again, was cooked flawlessly, buttery and full of flavor. The sesame crust brought a different texture to the dish, while the shrimp dumplings were an unexpectedly fitting garnish.
Finally, we ordered dessert. I chose the “coffee and doughnuts,” which sounds simple, but wasn’t what I was expecting. The donuts were crusted and fried with almonds. The coffee flavor was inside the doughnuts, while what I thought was the “coffee,” the raspberry-chocolate sauce, was served on the side. While this dessert was delicious, the “Marmalade Original” peanut brittle creme brulee stole the show. The creme brulee was velvety, sweet, and the peanut brittle flavor was outstanding. The top was crusted and golden. Luckily, I was so generously offered a few bites.
I hope to visit San Juan again, and Marmalade will be the first stop on my culinary to-do list. I think this will become one of those dining experiences that sets the bar, that I’ll be comparing everything else to Marmalade for quite some time. From start to finish, everything was exceptional.
317 Calle Fortaleza
San Juan, PR