Discovering a local favorite at José Enrique

In La Placita de Santurce, among the ring of restaurants surrounding the public market, was a restaurant that was hailed as a local favorite. José Enrique is quite unique and celebrated, because the chef, Jose Enrique, grew up locally, studied and practiced in the US, including in New York, before returning home and opening this restaurant. He specializes in Puerto Rican cuisine, but made modern and more refined.

José Enrique was actually a small restaurant, a little away from the market hub. I really liked the intimate, homelike setting, and while I was there, I chatted with a couple of locals and they also agreed that this is a local favorite. I was really excited for the handwritten fresh sheet menu. José Enrique changes its menu daily based on what’s fresh and available at the market.

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Continuing on my accidental trend for eating all things baby, I had the fried baby red snapper as an appetizer. It’s not my fault that all the baby seafood, like the baby red snapper her, are extra tender and sweet! The fried red snapper was great with a sprinkle of lime juice. They fried it so well, the tail was beautifully crunchy.

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Deep-fried whole yellow snapper with avocado salsa and mashed yam. This looks substantial and it was, but it was not heavy at all. Though making my way through an entire fish seems daunting, the meat was so soft and fresh, the whole fish took little work to debone. It was buttery smooth and crunchy from the frying. The mashed yam was slightly sweet and added some contrasting texture to the fish as well.

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While I was in Puerto Rico, I developed a healthy obsession for all things coconut. Fresh coconut water, coconut flan, coconut french toast, coconut ice cream…and now coconut custard. This was incredible. While it was a little too sweet, I enjoyed the rich coconut flavor and the custard was soft but not mushy.

José Enrique was a joy and affirmed my coconut obsession. Now I am anxious and eagerly anticipating a future trip to Thailand. Thai coconuts!!

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