“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”– Virginia Wolf
Gallo Negro is (was) one of our favorite restaurants in San Juan. With its creative menus and handcrafted cocktails. The unique ambiance is subtle and colorful all at the same time, in a strange and dark way.
The kitchen is lead by Chef Maria Grubb, a very well-known cook all over! Her take on the ingredients is strange and so familiar and at the same time, you are happily confused. In a good way.
Sadly, for us, Gallo Negro served its last meal on the night of December 21rst, 2019.
Fall in Puerto Rico is a tropical fall, with no orange leaves, no extreme cold, just less heat, and humidity. A combination that makes comfortable weather for us islanders. On a night off from our very busy jobs in this great and hectic food and tourism industry, my wife and I went back to Gallo Negro! We follow them on Instagram so we are always tempted by their dishes. Se when we see something great, we try and get there as soon as we can!
That Saturday night of October 26th marked the start of our Holiday Season!
Mariela ordered from the Prix Fixe Menu, a holiday festivity for the taste buds. She started with Brussels on crostini, blue cheese, and balsamic, followed by Crimini Soup with wonton. For the main course, rosemary and seasonal herbs and spices pork chop with coriander apples and Pommes purée. For dessert, she had poached pear with créme de cassis and walnuts.
Although I was going to get almost the same, I did not! When I saw duck breast on the menu with a ginger and acerola glace, I just had to have it! Duck is one of my all-time favorite meats. Acerola is one of my favorite fruits and ginger is one of my favorite holiday flavors! So no doubt, I got the duck, served with mushroom risotto! I started with brussels sprouts with parmesan and cranberries, a crazy combination of flavors. Bread pudding, chocolate, was my dessert, topped with vanilla ice cream, a memory of New Orleans perhaps.
There is something about Gallo Negro that makes you rethink food. The restaurant has bear walls and waiters in t-shirts, with beards and casual speeches. See, when I waited tables back in the 90s and the first decade of the 2000s back in New Orleans, the uniforms we wore had to be sharp, the tie in a double knot and God forbid the beard. I am still in the business of food service, at different levels perhaps, but the same business. So this kind of restaurant is like a fantasy, a taboo, it pushes the limits and then some. It’s shady, naughty, and yet so straightforward within its own confusion.
This experience was about, taking familiar flavors and rearranging them into something else. It’s like a manage a trois of food, a foursome, familiar, yet different, sexy yet limitless.
Everybody knows that a work of art can mean different things to different people. It may not even mean the same to the creator, the artist. I am guessing that since Chef María spent so much time cooking and eating in New York City. All the flavors and experiences were brought back to Santurce. So her food is the result of all that.
So, what’s not to like about Gallo Negro, I can’t tell you. Everything seems in sync here. All that revolution of colors on the walls, scruffy-looking waiters, tropical flavors mixed with classic fancy dishes makes sense here. All of it just makes you don’t even understand yourself, or maybe even rediscover your own essence in just one meal. Wow! I’m exhausted from writing that last paragraph!