|the grilled Octopus @ Morandi|
It was drizzling that night, but not as hard as the first night we arrived in Old San Juan. The Chinese called this sort of percipitation mao mao yu, which literally meant "fuzzy rain." But we carried an umbrella from the hotel, nonetheless. The past three nights before we had carefully asked the concierge for recommendations on where to eat and we were not disappointed. The length of Old San Juan can be walk in less than an hour, so after three nights we had ran out of dinner choices. Tonight was our last night, and wanting it to be special, we were left with the dilemma of where to eat for dinner. The concierge had ran out of recommendations as well.
So we strolled around, and ended up at a restaurant at the bottom of the hill that led to the city's ports. Our stomachs were desperate for food and it was getting late. The restaurant was brightly lit in white fluorescent. The scene was stark and the crowd was unpleasant looking. Feeling uncomfortable, I occupied myself by skimming the menu, but each of our choices was shot down as the restaurant was out of everything we wanted. I ended ordering something common and forgetful. As we sat with our drinks waiting for the food, he could see the disappointment in my eyes. This night was so different from all the nights before; of perfect ambiance and gracefully prepared dishes. It was out last night. Our last chance to have a good memory of Old San Juan. So without explanation, he went to the back of the restaurant and next thing I knew, he told me to get our things. We were leaving. He had taken care of the bill, and now we would be heading to somewhere we actually wanted to be.
The place was a gamble. It was notorious in OSJ because Anthony Bourdain had visited it on his show a year or so before, and as the locals would have you believe, has gone downhill every since that 'sell-out' moment. But it was the last vestige of 'fine dining' yet unexplored on our trip. It did not disappoint. The paella, a sea-food and rice dish, was heavenly and we ate until we found it hard to move.
That was back in May.
Something similar replayed itself last night. It was 9PM in the west side (New York) and not wanting to wait 45 minutes to an hour for a decent meal he opted for a generic Chinese restaurant around the corner. We had our favorite Chinese spots and this was not one of them. As the food arrived, he knew something was wrong. Needless to say, he didn't let me take another bite, had the food packed to go, and we headed over to Morandi. I can't even begin to describe how amazing the food was, from the grilled octopus for appetizer to the linguine with clam in white wine sauce, to the tagliatelle in simple meat sauce to the dessert with home-made marshmallow, dark chocolate and pumpkin sorbet.
But what made the whole meal so romantic was the gesture he made in assuring I would smile through our dinner that night. And I smiled the whole time, ear to ear, as I stuffed myself silly.