The Wine Tasting, The Dominican Fish Market, The Coconut, & The Chef – Porto of Balcones del Atlantico
I can’t talk about a visit to the Dominican Republic without talking about the food. Chances are that this article won’t be the last time I mention the food I had there when visiting Las Terrenas.
But first, let me describe what is standard in most resort restaurants anywhere. Normally when you visit a resort, they have the basic fare. The buffet morning, afternoon, and night. If you are staying in an all-inclusive, chances are you will eat at the buffet more than once during your stay, and maybe – just maybe – treat yourself to the more luxurious restaurant (not included in your package) one night during your visit. If you are lucky, on that evening – and that evening alone – you will get to taste something that is indicative of the cuisine traditional to the country you are visiting. Otherwise, not so much.
Porto is not part of an all-inclusive package. It doesn’t have to cater to the bulk or head count. It caters and answers only to the individual diner, many of which are local residents of the area. This, of course, being a continuation of the mark they are making in the community.
Walking into Porto is a unique experience in itself. Set on the beautiful beaches of Las Terrenas, no matter what the time, the sense of paradise envelopes you and makes you never want to leave. We kept coming back, even when we weren’t hungry, just to lounge around by the beach and take it all in.
Franklin Vizcaino manages the restaurant and bar. Chances are that if you are in Porto, you will see Mr.Vizcaino chatting it up with guests, making sure all is in order, or having you taste whatever the latest alcoholic creation he has in the works.
In the kitchen, making it all happen, is Peruvian-born and Executive Chef Bruno Toso.
Wait. A Peruvian chef in a Dominican kitchen? Oh yes, my friends.
He knows a lot more about the cuisine and culture then most. He has studied it and respects it in the dishes he serves, but he also has made it his mission to refine and bring back that which has been lost over time, often with a touch of his own Peruvian roots for extra measure. And Dominicans are loving it. They come from far and wide to taste his food and are often eager for his next creation.
So often do local guests return, that the restaurant changes up its menu selection to keep them coming to something new and fresh – though honestly most of them have their favorites. Mine is Chef Bruno’s Peruvian Ceviche. I swear I can’t get enough of that! It’s A-MAZING.
In addition to the cuisine, the restaurant has a beautiful selection of wine and liquor. This isn’t your standard beer-rum-coke-house wine type of bar. Mr. Vizcaino is also the restaurant’s Sommelier and can tell you anything you want to know about any drink, anywhere. His curiosity and adventurous spirit for food and spirits is contagious. Even I would have been willing to eat a bug or two after listening to him recount his adventures when visiting China.
Instead of eating bugs though, I had the pleasure of partaking in a ceviche and wine tasting experience at the restaurant’s own wine cellar. Chef Bruno prepped his famous ceviche within seconds for us, while Mr. Vizcaino talked to us about wine, the process of tasting and selecting a good wine, as well as identifying the flavors that best suit your meal and individual taste.This is an experience offered to any guest who wishes to have it.
We got to enjoy the company of Mr. Vizcaino, Chef Bruno, and Mr. (Pedro) Sanchez, General Manager of Balcones del Atlántico that night. I for one walked away feeling like I had made new friends. I mean, how can you not? Good wine, delicious ceviche, and great company? It was inevitable.
And while all of this may sound incredibly upscale and luxurious, the truth is that the food is not at all pretentious. There are those dishes that Chef Bruno has marked with his craft and which would require a visit to Porto to experience from him, but then there are those that are so perfectly Dominican, that even Chef knew to leave well enough alone, like for example what we Dominicans call “Los Tres Golpes” (the three hits), the traditional Dominican breakfast of mangú (mashed green plantains), salami, fried cheese, and eggs.
There were many times I fell in love with Chef Bruno – like when he introduced us to the famous ceviche dish of his, or when he took us to the Dominican fish market with him one morning and treated us to an unforgettable lunch on the beach, or when I saw the mangú on the menu.
But my food-loving heart was forever touched when unbeknownst to the chef I told my husband, “You know what I really want to make my return home just that much more special? If I could just have a coconut and drink the water straight from it.” Like magic, within minutes Chef Bruno showed up with a coconut, freshly knocked off a palm tree near by, the water still warm inside, with a straw sticking out of it.
Executive Chef Bruno Toso
My eyes teared up.
“How did you know not to serve it in a glass?” I asked him, emotional over the perfection of it all. “So many people get that wrong.”
“What is luxury to you?” he asked me.
I looked at the beach, I looked at the coconut shell full of childhood memories and I smiled. “This,” I said holding back the happy tears. “This is all the luxury I could ever need.”
The fact that he would know and understand what this would mean to a person walking into his restaurant is the true mark of a great chef. And that he is.
Thank you to Chef Bruno Toso for everything, but most of all for sharing your Peruvian Ceviche recipe. Check it out here!
The following video is of my visit to the Dominican fish market with Chef Bruno. It was a really fun experience, and I hope you enjoy it.
For for more information on Porto, Balcones del Atlántico’s restaurant, please visit the RockResort website here.
Stay tuned for our adventures off the resort as we discover some of the Dominican Republic’s natural beauties! In the meantime I hope you enjoy our Flickr photos:
Disclosure: Complimentary airfare, as well as hotel stay, some meals, and services were courtesy of Balcones del Atlantico RockResort. No other compensation was received for this review. All views and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.