I actually want Michelin inspectors to go to San Juan just so that Marmalade can get a Michelin star. Pretty bold statement, I know, but T and I think it's that good. Actually we think it's the best restaurant in San Juan, period. The exterior of the restaurant screams deep orange befitting the colorful range of storefronts in Old San Juan.
Stepping into Marmalade, we were transported to a place with warm and serene environment. We were very lucky to be seated at one of the couches and if I may say so, it was possibly the best seating in the restaurant. We sat next to each other on a wide sofa and behind our backs were so many pillows for us to lean our backs against.
Chef Peter Schintler, who also owns this restaurant, clearly is in his game. He does not only depend on his food to keep his customers. The entire night he periodically appeared from the kitchen and dropping by as many tables as he possibly could to create a personal dining experience among the crowd. He came over to our table at the beginning of the night to tell us about the Californian wines that they had on special.
We went with a 5-course prix fixe which allowed us to choose the items from their ala carte menu. It was a good decision as we got to sample several very delicious dishes. I use the word sample here very lightly because each item was a standard portion instead of a tasting portion like what we would have come to expect from a prix fixe multiple courses meal.
The scallop mojito was impressive from the time it was brought to our table right before we tasted it. Served in a martini glass, our server poured table side from a martini shaker a concoction of light coconut and rum liquid into the glasses. In the martini glass were scallops, thinly sliced avocado, slivers of red onion, and topped with mint. It was a refreshing start of our meal, to say the least.
If I had a choice, I normally would not choose a cream-based soup as I always find a lot of them too rich for my enjoyment. I really really love soups and always go for broth-based ones e.g. minestrone, chicken noodle, etc. At Marmalade, their signature item which is the white bean and black truffle soup is part of the prix fixe menu (so technically we had the signature item + four own chosen items). Granted, if this soup did not already come with the prix fixe option, I would most probably not have ordered it which would have been very unfortunate. This soup changed my mind on how I feel about rich creamy soup in general; I'm now a convert. It was one of those experiences where a person does not like a certain type of food possibly due to sub-par experiences but all it takes is just one perfect way of making that type of food to make the person fall in love with it. The black truffle oil that was drizzled on the soup was enough to make us excited to sip our soup away. Also topped with crispy pancetta and truffle bits, the soup was wonderful.
The portions of our foie gras was definitely memorable. It was huge and we each had one to our ownselves. I don't think we've even had an order of foie gras this generous in size before when sharing among the both of us. The foie gras was accompanied with blood sausage and raspberry. It was amazing but I have to admit that the far-from-petite size of the foie gras for each of us started becoming a little too rich for us towards the end of the course.
Next up we had truffled beef cheeks served on a bed of rice pilaf. The sauce was very beefy and definitely tasted like alot of everything beef went into it. T and I disagreed on how we felt about this. I could definitely taste the truffles in mine but he said he tasted the lack of it. The beef cheeks were very tender and smooth. It was definitely pleasing to the palette.
After the scallop mojito, white bean and truffle soup, foie gras and beef cheeks, we were ready for dessert. We ordered a different dessert each and I had doughnuts and coffee. Named so, it isn't because the doughnuts were served with a cup of coffee. Rather, it was because the macadamia-coated beignets were meant to be dunked into a cup of coffee and chocolate covered with a strawberry-lemongrass sauce and foam on the top. T's dessert was the answer to a chocolate lover's dream. The brownie-like cake came with milk chocolate mousse and dark chocolate pecans. And it was completed with guava glaze. The entire mini cake sat on two dark chocolate swirls.
This was one of those dining experiences that become memorable because the entire night was great on so many levels. The wonderful service was a great complement to the dishes that reflect the thought that went into them. There are many reasons as to why Marmalade will continue to succeed in San Juan and remain as one of people's favorites.
317 Cll Fortaleza
San Juan, PR 00901