Bottles Restaurant San Juan: Great Concept, Marginal Meat

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Bottles San Juan Restaurant Review is part of the Despacito! TPOL Moves to Puerto Rico Trip Report.


Searching for the food and ambiance of my favorite restaurant in the US (Mastro’s City Hall Scottsdale) a blog reader told me about Bottles, a restaurant in Guaynabo, a municipality close to San Juan. Looking forward to great wine and steak, I took an $8 Uber from Old San Juan to the restaurant in anticipation of having my culinary desires satisfied. Here’s what I found:

The Concept 

By far the best offering of the restaurant is picking out the wine. Instead of a nondescript wine list that mentions the varietal, the price, and the name of the bottle in italics, Bottles does it differently. Patrons can walk around the restaurant and select their own bottle of wine as if they were at an upscale Costco. The prices were reasonable with a basic bottle starting at $35 and a strong Cabernet going for $60. 

The Ambiance 

At City Hall, I don’t bother sitting in the uppity dining room. I prefer the outside patio or the bar area. The one drawback of the bar area is the live music if you happen to sit at the table right next to the band. Having said that, City Hall has energy. Bottles felt like I was having a steak sample in the middle of Costco with the lights turned down.

The Krug 

What’s a celebration without champagne? What’s life without Krug? For $60, this little bottle can be yours. It doesn’t taste as good when you have to pay for it, but it is still delicious (see Singapore Airlines First to Moscow: Lobster, Krug, Givenchy, Prada , The Best Use Of Delta SkyMiles: Krug Champagne).

The Fiji Water

I found it a bit tacky that the restaurant serves Fiji water, an unnecessary upsell that comes unsolicited.

The Appetizers 

If only the appetizers were an accurate preview of what was to come. The mussels and swordfish ceviche were top notch. 

The Wine 

The Cabernet from Napa was bold, lively, and all the adjectives required to justify the cost of buying wine in a restaurant. If only the entrees were as good.

The Steak And Lamb 

City Hall does not offer sides with its $60 rack of lamb. Those are extra. That’s why when I learned that sides were included, I became suspicious. Upscale restaurants don’t give away quality food. When the food arrived, I was also not impressed with the presentation. As a lover of broccoli (see The Tahiti Diet: Making the Bungalow Selfie Count), I could not understand why I was given a huge uncut piece. Was it for design or was I expected to use my steak knife to cut it into manageable pieces? Along with broccoli, there was a huge side of uncut cauliflower, the world’s worst vegetable. The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were great but then again who can mess up mashed potatoes?

Apart from the sides, my real concern was the dipping sauce for the meats. The lamb had a mint sauce and the steak came with a side of hollandaise in the same way Chili’s would serve a side of ranch. That was a red flag. Great meat does not need sides. The only thing worse would have been a bottle of A1.

Before cutting into the meat, let me lyrically rip it some more by saying that it was overcooked. Medium rare means rare. No further explanation is needed. The filet was not great and the lamb, like mashed potatoes, tasted good but none of the meats remotely compare to City Hall.

Not medium rare. Look at the one on the right! Ramsey would be upset.
Chili’s! And messy dripping on the side.

The Bill 

17% gratuity is included which begs the question: should gratuity be the same for uncorking a bottle of wine as it is for serving food? Out the door, I was down $311.

Overall

I would return to Bottles for the wine and for the appetizers. I would not order any meat. 

 

 

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