The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is the oldest and the most beautiful in San Juan, and the 1919 restaurant (named after the year it was built) has a fine reputation. We went in the evening, which is almost a pity as one doesn't get the grand ocean view; but both the lobby and the dining-room itself are darkly grand. The service is restrained but scrupulous, the staff friendly as everywhere in this city. We began with margaritas, which were perfect, served in tumblers; my friend had the tomato broth, and I the tuna tartare. Portions were small (a pleasure) and beautifully done: the tartare came with a wafer and a poached quail's egg on top. Not hungry enough for four courses, we went straight to the main dish, and both had the duck breast, which arrived sliced, cooked to our order, with some eggplant and a superb black sauce -- certainly the best duck breast I've eaten, and I live in South-West France. For dessert, my friend had the lemon crême brûlée and I a selection of three miniatures: crême brûlée, champagne sabayon and something else I can't recall. Everything was superb. And a bottle of an excellent Côtes du Rhone was a worthy accompaniment. One note: the prices here are definitely New York prices, and the wine list runs from ca. $80 to $1,600 a bottle. There is a 4-course prix fixe menu for $70; but with an average bottle of wine this will still push your bill up to over $200 plus tip. This, as others have noted, is a place for celebration, remarkable in its quality and its presentation.
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