Sunday, January 3, 2016

Yes, I Kan Kan, Pork Chop

The most delicious and memorable meal consumed by me while in Puerto Rico a few years ago was the Kan Kan Pork Chop at Restaurante Raices in San Juan. This dish was invented in one of the more famous Puerto Rican restaurants outside of San Juan, La Guardarraya ("The Guardrail") in Guayanilla. These chops include the loin, belly and skin - the three best parts of the pig combined.

I have been dreaming of that chop ever since and recently I discovered a Kan Kan Chop close to our stately pleasure dome by the boulevard of gastronomic delights - Gulf Boulevard at Indian Shores. Actually, La Fondita de Leo is in Clearwater, but let's not quibble. It's closer than San Juan.

The Belle of the Boulevard and I had planned on an adventurous Suncoast Beach Trolley ride to La Fondita, but at the last minute we were upgraded to a 2016 Mercedes Benz luxury ride to the restaurant in our daughter's brand new buggy. Mish and Maj picked us up and we boogied to this Puerto Rican eatery on Cleveland Street around 4:30-ish for a late lunch or early dinner. La Fondita opens at 11 o'clock.

The four of us wandered in to this vast space with pressed-tin ceilings and a long full bar next to the main dining room. The dining room could have been taken directly from Old San Juan, with a Spartan decor and many hard surfaces that echo with laughter and camaraderie when the family get-togethers get cranked up. This is definitely a family oriented establishment.

We were seated at a four-top in the main dining room. Service, we soon discovered, seem to function on island time. There was much scurrying about, but it took awhile for our server to stop for us. When Jose arrived he took our drink orders: a Medalla Light for me (they no longer carry this Puerto Rican beer, so I switched to a bottle of Bud), a couple of mojitos, and a Margarita.

With adult beverages in hand, we eyed the appetizer choices and selected three: the Ceviche Mixto, Chorizos al Vino, and Croquetas de Jamón.

The mixed ceviche of shrimp and fish "cooked" in citrus juices was served with fried plaintains (tostones) and deemed to be a very savory start to our cena homenaje.

I had seriously considered the ceviche, but for this dining adventure I wanted to try something different and the chorizos braised with onions in white wine just called my name.

The silky smooth braising liquid with juicy sausage coins and al dente onions was a real treat for the taste buds.

The Croquetas de Jamón consisted of rich tasting ground ham coated with breading and deep fried, then served with a light aioli.

Other than the rather slow service, the next negative of the evening occurred when all of our entrees were brought out before we had completed our appetizers. This caused great confusion at the table since there wasn't room enough for all of the plates. Should we ever return to La Fondita, I will have to insist that we be allowed to finish our appetizers before our main dishes are brought to the table. This was something we never had to put up with while on the island.

As my not-quite-finished chorizo was removed from the table, the whole reason for my visit appeared. Oh my, that Kan Kan Chop looked just like the one in San Juan. As an aside; La Fondita spells it Can Can, but either spelling is acceptable.

The crispy pork skin (chicharrón) coupled with the fatty, juicy pork belly, and the tender, flavorful loin brought to mind savory, delicious memories of San Juan. The side of Mofongo is an Afro-Puerto Rican dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient.

My lovely bride chose as her main course the Chicken Mamposteao, a chicken, rice and bean dish, similar to, but distinct from, arroz con gandules.

Our daughter had the Pork Tenderloin with a slightly sweet guava sauce and a side of rice and beans that seemed to please her and appease the pains of hunger.

Our son-in-law had the Skirt Steak, a tender and flavorful dish with the the ubiquitous sides of rice and beans.

Our total bill for all food and beverage came in at a rather pricey $200. We added an extra 20% gratuity for Jose.

La Fondita de Leo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato