By: Luis A. Ponce
Appoint Magazine - June 2007
BLT Steak at the Ritz-Carlton San Juan, with its combination of beiges and maroons, feels sharp and timeless. The earthiness of the locale and the beautiful open kitchen that commands the dinning room say a lot about the concept and philosophy behind BLT (which stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel) Steak: blending the true spirit of an American steakhouse with the sophistication and joie de vivre of a French bistro.
French-trained chef and famed New York City restauranteur Laurent Tourondel landed his Manhattan empire in Puerto Rico last November. So far the restaurant has done an amazing job in the difficult adaptation process: for Puerto Rico they trusted bartender Roberto Rivera to come up with the Puerto Rican Sunshine cocktail, incorporated a chimichurri sauce in the menu and exclusively created the Piña Colada Sundae.
According to Robert Honeycutt, the beverage specialist and sommelier, another adaptation that makes BLT Steak San Juan stand out is the Raw Bar which stateside restaurants don’t have.
The Ritz is bliss, and BLT Steak is primarily that: naturally aged USDA Prime or Certified Black Angus cuts which broiled at 1700 degrees. Is that not enough, how about a Kobe steak priced at $25 per ounce? This is definitely not a place for folks looking for familiar flavors, so do not come here expecting the kind of steaks you have had in other "expensive" restaurants. And although you still have traditional fish and shellfish options (the sautéed Dover sole, at $48, being the most exquisite and popular), bear in mind that this review is about a restaurant that has ‘steak’ on its name.
Once at the table, you immediately get a dish of charcuterie (dried meats), two small portions of foccacia bread with cheese and the BLT Steak’s signature popovers with the mousse of foie de canard topped with a Port reduction. The mousse is great in the sense that it opens your palate, but I didn’t find it more appealing than a classic pâté.
If you want a good cut of meat for your main dish, start with seafood from the appetizers and salad section. The Tuna Tartare with soy-lime dressing wasn’t only well executed –perfect balance between the dressing’s tanginess and the dense flavor of the sushi grade tuna– but, with the avocado base and tiny fried shallots on top the cubes of fish, it was a colorful and dramatic presentation. I then felt I could use some veggies, so along came the Lobster "Cobb" Style Salad. Not only the plenty –and shelled– sweet lobster made it delicious, but it was great for sharing. Lobster meat tops a bed of greens, tomatoes, cheese and thick bacon pieces with a touch of creamy dressing. Avoid the Crab Cake: ours was too peppery and, overall, unspectacular.
Then came the 40 oz. Porterhouse ($88). That’s for two, and two we were and couldn’t finish it. This Porterhouse, along with the 22 oz. Rib Eye ($46) and the 32 oz. "BLT"/Bone in Double Sirloin (also for two and at $84) are the most popular cuts at the restaurant.
At a place like BLT Steak, opt for different sides like mushrooms, roasted tomatoes or the broiled and amazingly aromatic Brussels sprouts. From the two sauces we got for the Porterhouse (you can choose from 8), I preferred the 3 Mustards Béarnaise on my filet portion and the Red Wine sauce on the sirloin. However, I was expecting the herb butter topping our steak to melt. It never did. Nonetheless, this was a small glitch within the refined experience we had at the hands of Chef de Cuisine Dustin Atoigue, Mr. Honeycutt and a knowledgeable and amicable wait staff.
For the final act we had chef Tourondel’s signature Crêpe Soufflé with passion fruit sauce. This isn’t your traditional soufflé or crêpe but a mix between the two. What made this dessert fantastic was the lightly acidic and sweet sauce that also served as a palate cleanser. But if you really want to end your dinner with a highlight, skip the sweet and tempting desserts. Try the American artisan cheeses BLT Steak procures from Murray’s, a cheese shop in NYC. Our favorites were the nutty Fleur de Lis from Louisiana, the thick and citric goat milk Humboldt Fog from California, and the complex and sharp Aspenhurst from Vermont. For $14 it’s not only worth it, it is a must, and the best way of keeping BLT Steak’s tradition of transforming tradition.