Last Friday, we gathered with a group of local bloggers and twitter users at one of two restaurants located within the San JuanMarriott Resort and Stellaris Casino located in Condado, Puerto Rico. The restaurant that offers buffet and an a la carte menu is called La Vista Latin Grill located near the pool and beachfront area of the San Juan Marriott.
Once we all met up in the lobby, we were served drinks and snacks by the bar matron Jennifer. She took a liking to Daniela and chatted with us for a bit making sure we all had something to drink in our hands. Afterwards, we were brought down to La Vista Latin Grill by Melissa and Cristina, who are employees of the San Juan Marriott and coordinators of the luncheon along with CIMA IT Solutions, Inc.
Once seated, our waitress proceeded to list the items available for all to eat. I had to pay close attention to the vegetarian options in the buffet and a la carte menu. We were able to ask Melissa and Cristina questions about the restaurant and the services they provide at the hotel.
While everyone was talking at the table and waiting for their beverages, I decided to take a walk with my daughter and talk to the staff and chefs about the vegetarian and vegan options available. Of course I had to sacrifice my waistline for the greater good of other vegetarians and vegans they may want to visit the hotel as guests or locals.
One of the employees that was standing near the food, informed me of the vegetarian options and stated that he was waiting for one of the two vegetarians to come up to him. He introduced me to Lucy and Emanuel, two of the chefs at La Vista, that provided me with information regarding vegetarian or vegan options. I wanted to make sure that they understood the difference between Vegans and Vegetarians.
As I proceeded to talk to Chefs Lucy and Emmanuel, they understood that if someone who was vegan wanted something cooked, they would omit any type of dairy product from the meal. I also asked them if they had someone who was vegan or vegetarian and they wanted soup, they would make food with vegetable broth. They further explained they could make food for the guests according to their specific dietary needs. All you would have to do is ask them.
In this case, if I was the San Juan Marriot, I would put a little note near the foods stating this or have the waiters ask if there is someone with a dietary need who is dining with them that particular day. This would really be something out of the ordinary as far as customer service is concerned.
Sometimes we walk into certain places and don’t see vegetarian options so we leave. But the good thing about the employees that I talked to at the San Juan Marriott was that they were aware that people do have different needs when it comes to food. When the waitress did tell us the vegetarian buffet options she noted the quinoa and couscous stating that they were gluten free. I would recommend that they put a little note next to foods that were considered gluten free or vegetarian/vegan in order to ease a diners experience.
I was with our daughter Daniela who is eating solids and I also asked if they catered to moms and babies who needed food prepared for them. They did state they could do this for the family and asked me if I wanted something made for Daniela. Since I had brought her food and told them she likes mashed potatoes, I said it wasn’t necessary.
A couple of minutes later as I was feeding Daniela her peas and mango puree, one of the employees asked me if I wanted some mashed potatoes for her. I said sure and they brought out a plate of mashed potatoes that could have fed several babies. I thought this was genuine and an extra touch to the good customer service we were getting. As a new mom I am picky about what my daughter eats, ( I make her food at home) and I did taste the potatoes before giving them to baby. They had a good taste to them. I would recommend that if you do need this type of service at La Vista, go into detail about what ingredients your baby can or can not have.
When I saw the the plantain soup I thought I will be going for that during my food adventure. I found out from my partner that the chef had warned him not to eat any because it was not made with vegetable stock. For me it is kind of weird to make a vegetable or root based soup with chicken stock. But that is something that we run into with many places on the island that offer vegetable or root based soups and are not are vegetarian or a vegan cafeteria. I would recommend changing the recipe to include vegetable broth or include a soup in the buffet that is made with a vegetable base just for vegetarians or vegans.
The only item on the a la carte menu was a veggie burger. We were asked by the waitress if we wanted to try it and asked if we wanted to omit or add cheese. We did ask for swiss on the burger which I was going to share with my partner. They prepared a veggie burger that had toppings other than the lettuce tomato you might get elsewhere. They grilled eggplant, yellow squash, green and red peppers with a hint of balsamic vinegar. If someone were Vegan, they would offer the patty without the cheese. I have to say that it was delicious and I am usually a ketchup girl. But I didn’t need it with the way the vegetables were seasoned. I made sure to go to Lucy and Emmanuel and tell them both how delicious the burger was. Emmanuel told me that the focaccia bread was made in-house. It really tasted fresh and was soft!
Their salad bar was extensive and include mixed greens, iceburg lettuce salad with dried fruit incorporated, olives, tomatos, red peppers, shredded carrots, shredded broccoli, and cauliflower, corn, and other vegetable toppings. They also had balsamic vinegar and oil if you did not want any of the other dressings. They did have a couscous salad and quinoa salad that were prepared in vegetable stock.
For my main dish I did have the eggplant lasagna. It was made with tomatoes, marinara sauce, cheese, yellow squash, and of course eggplant. They did have extra marinara sauce to top the lasagna. I served myself the mixed greens salad, quinoa, couscous, and mozzarella balls. I did not leave one string of broccoli on my plate. It was all very flavorful.
The end of my lunch was topped off with coffee and sweets. I was told by my friends Zuleyka and Pepe to eat the guayaba cheesecake. I followed their recommendation and did not regret it at all. There were a wide variety of desserts from mini tarts, homemade mini chocolate chip cookies, decadent chocolate cakes, to typical tembleque and arroz con dulce. I recommended to one of the employees that they specify if there are any diabetic friendly desserts or even desserts that vegan’s can indulge in while they are visiting.
The customer service and attention to small details, especially the mashed potatoes for Daniela, was exceptional on behalf of the staff at the luncheon. There is always room for more vegetarian and vegan options when it comes to the a la carte menu at La Vista Latin Grill. But unlike other places, they had a good jumping point besides just lettuce and tomato that other places think is vegetarian or vegan friendly food.
Disclosure: The San Juan Marriott hired CIMA IT Solutions to assist with the coordination of this event. Even though our lunch was Complimentary on behalf of the La Vista Latin Grill and the San Juan Marriott, we don’t feel that this influenced the writing of this post in any way.