Scenic Beaches, Dirt Roads, Fresh Fish and Coconuts: A Local's Guide to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic (Part One)
|All photos by Emily Codik|
|Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic|
We waved the driver down. "Hey! Excuse me!" my father shouted in his loud, Dominican-style Spanish, peeking his head out the car's window. "Which way to the restaurant, The Beach?"
The charming driver smiled, slowly took off his Aviator sunglasses, and answered, "You mean my restaurant?" A closer look at our guide revealed he was wearing an impeccable chef's coat -- a paradox amid the palm trees and unpaved roads surrounding this cool beachfront path.
Giancarlo Fiori, the Chilean executive chef of The Beach, arrived in this lax beach town after extensive stints in kitchens all over Europe. His restaurant is difficult to find, with only a teeny wooden sign announcing the entrance to the plantation style, open air property. The Beach serves as the club for the hilltop luxury hotel, The Peninsula House. Both locations were probably selected because of their natural, native exclusivity. Both places are impossible to find.
|The Beach at Playa Cosón|
The lure of this beach side town is evident by its large expat community, formed by those who once visited for vacation and never made it back home. Fiori is just one among the foreign crowd, injecting the town's restaurants and hotels with European and Latin American fare.
That's why the food at this beach town is much less Dominican than it is international. When you're at Las Terrenas, it's just as easy to find a solid margherita pizza as it is to find an emerald bottle of chilled Presidente beer. Soon after arriving, I realized that residents like Fiori have lost most of their native accents, quickly picking up the loud, short, upbeat speech that characterizes Dominican Spanish.
Fiori's The Beach offers local seafood in a Mediterranean and Asian-inspired context, like in the case of the delectable prawn ravioli, ribboned with squid ink, and tossed in a delicate hint of butter with slow roasted tomatoes. Thai fried rice with pineapple is served as it is traditionally, inside a hollowed pineapple, packed with hefty kicks of chili sauce and local shrimp. Though the menu might seem in-cohesive with such a vast fusion of diverse inspiration, it's this fusion that Las Terrenas is really all about. And it all also happens to be surprisingly delicious.
|Ravioli de langostinos at The Beach|
We stayed at the modern Hotel Alisei, a 54-room hotel that's located right in front of the Las Terrenas beach, about two minutes away from the pueblo. The hotel functions almost like apartments, with one bedroom's costing about $120 per night and two bedrooms going for about $350. That's about $120 per couple per night, and the price includes a generous breakfast buffet with Dominican staples like yucca with onions, fried cheese and café con leche.
|Yuca encebollada con queso frito: breakfast at Hotel Alisei|