Craving a bit of the city, we left quiet Dorado where we live, for bustling San Juan. A and I took J, our 10-year old along, for dinner at BLT Steak. Originally created in 2004 by French chef Laurent Tourondel (hence the name, Bistro Laurent Tourondel) with his then business partner Jimmy Haber, the BLT restaurants are now owned and operated by Mr. Haber's ESquared Hospitality restaurant group when the partnership between the two broke up in 2010.
Our booking was for 8:45 and when we arrived, the restaurant was still quite full from the first seating so we waited a bit for our table to be ready. We were seated at one of the more comfortable banquettes lining one side of the room. The place was busy which is always nice to see in a restaurant. Interiors are elegant but casual - black leather-covered chairs accented with white piping and wooden tables with simple place mats, cutlery and a tumbler on the tabletop. Menus were set on the table and water was served along with a complimentary appetizer of cold cuts - saucisson sec, jambon cru, chorizo and viande de grison (the French version of air-dried beef) along with some grilled bread and gruyere bites which we enjoyed while studying the menu.
The menu is varied for a steakhouse - there was a raw bar selection (oysters, ceviche) and salads and appetizers; steaks, poultry, fish and seafood on the grill accompanied by an assortment of sauces and different side dishes - potatoes, vegetables, and mushrooms. They also have some specials on the blackboard. We finally settled on the tuna tartar to start followed by two main courses - the 14 oz. (almost 400 grams) NY strip and jumbo shrimp with two sides: French fries and creamy spinach. J wasn't interested to order anything from the kid's menu so we decided we would share everything.
First on the table after we ordered were BLT's famous popovers - puffy gruyere topped hollow rolls, similar to Yorkshire pudding, served with unsalted butter and a large silver sea salt shaker. The presentation was fun and the popovers even better. Our tuna tartar came next - chopped sushi-grade tuna formed into a block and served with diced avocados in a sesame oil and lime dressing which we piled on top of delicious criss-cut potato chips. The chef sent out another appetizer for us to try - the daily ceviche from the specials menu which was raw grouper in lime juice and chopped red onions - a tangy mouthful on top of crispy tostones - fried plantain chips and an interesting alternative to the sweet and salty tuna tartar. Both appetizers were outstanding and a great way to start our dinner.
Next came the main courses - the seared NY strip in a cast-iron platter with a classic Bearnaise on the side, and the grilled jumbo shrimp with cilantro-lemon confit. Our two side dishes - French fries in a large paper cone and the creamed spinach in a small cast-iron dish also came with two extra side dishes compliments of the chef: braised carrots and green beans with garlic, also in small cast-iron dishes - a nice touch. Our table was quite full by now so we shared the dishes and had a bit of everything. The steak was a beautiful hunk of meat, sadly overcooked to medium well instead of medium-rare like we asked and the jumbo shrimps lacked flavor despite adding the citrus sauce. The side dishes though, were a triumph - the carrots sweet, the spinach creamy, the beans garlicky and the french fries salty and crispy.
After trying our best to finish all that food, we chose just one dessert to share - the caramelized cheesecake with citrus soup. Once again, we were pleasantly surprised by the chef's generosity of sending out two other desserts: the amazing crepe souffle with passion fruit sauce and the white chocolate creme brulee with raspberry sorbet just because the server overheard my son ask me about it. Espressos finished off our dinner accompanied by dark chocolate espresso brownie bites. When we finally asked for the bill, we got the biggest surprise of all, dinner was on the house. We'll definitely be back to try the rest of the menu and I'm sure the next time, J will insist to come along again for another delicious dinner.
P.D. October 24, 2012
We have been back several times to BLT and the food has been consistently good on our recent visits. The meat was cooked perfectly and the side dishes, from the mushrooms to the different types of potatoes, were always done well. Service is friendly and one of the most efficient in San Juan.
at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan
6961 Avenida de los Gobernadores
Isla Verde, Carolina
00979 Puerto Rico
Telephone: +1 787 253 1700
*Open daily for dinner from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
*10 other locations in the U.S. and one in Hong Kong