If you’ve driven past 6789 Biscayne Blvd in the MiMo district lately and wondered why the former Balans spot is boldly painted in the flag of Puerto Rico, you can wonder no longer. It is the new home of La Placita. Named after San Juan’s bustling food market. Puerto Rican born Chef José Mendin, a five-time James Beard award nominee and the man behind the Pubbelly empire has created a restaurant cooking food from his homeland. He is doing this in partnership with Sergio Navarro, Jonathan Balans (of Balans restaurant) and Julian Gil, a telenovela tv star. It bills itself as a Puerto Rican restaurant, a market place and a nightlife destination. It features tapas-style sharing plates, made with traditional ingredients from Puerto Rico. It definitely is a high energy, playful setting.
You’ll have no trouble finding the restaurant as a large mural of the Puerto Rican flag is painted over the entire building. It is directly across from the Blue Collar restaurant. The restaurant tries to have a market/bodega feel with knick knacks from the island, Goya cans to hold your utensils, strung ceiling lights, art from local island artists, and an outdoor feeling, indoors. There is also a few patios and a live DJ.
I know nothing about Puerto Rican food, I’m what you call a gringo. I can only talk about my personal experiences.
The food is what I call heavy or hearty, with lots of deep fried and over sauced items, and an abundance of pork dishes. The menu is mostly in Spanish, I guess they are catering to their people. I was unfamiliar with the majority of dishes and had to have an explanation of the entire menu. Maybe you should have an English explanation under each dish as well, because after all, we are in the US! To me, the food was mediocre and disappointing. Maybe I’m just not a fan of this style of cooking? However, I do travel the world and I do enjoy most cuisines. Of all the things we ordered I enjoyed the short ribs, sweet plantains in a bechamel sauce. It was rich, with a touch of sweetness. I found the Mofongo interesting. You choose a base of green plantain, or sweet plantain, yuca and green plantain and then add a protein. It isn’t something I would eat on a regular basis. The desserts were kept in a refrigerator that reminded me of a diner with pies on display. The coconut pannacotta and the flan were acceptable.
We had to wait twenty-five minutes for a table with a reservation. We were asked three times if we wanted to sit on the patio. NO!!!! I booked an indoor table and it was 47 degrees outside. The heaters didn’t do the trick, although you assured us we would be nice and toasty. The DJ’s music was SO loud you couldn’t hear any conversation. The restaurant was packed with locals and it was a tight squeeze getting into your table. Had the fire marshall approved this? Parking is a nightmare. If you make a reservation on Opentable then you can park for $6. Otherwise, the police closed off the street except for residents and you will have to drive around to find a spot.
I am usually a fan of most José Mendin’s concepts, but unfortunately not this one. I wouldn’t make a special trip here, but maybe if I lived in the area. That hasn’t stopped the hoards of people trying to get a table.