The Chef’s table at Epicuro Culinary Center in San Juan is an experience that you should plan your visit to San Juan around.

You’ll want the Epicuro Culinary Centre, which opened in San Juan, Puerto Rico recently, to be on your list of places to visit. The food at this upscale yet approachable Puerto Rico restaurant is so delicious, you may be tempted by the idea of planning a trip just to sit at the chef’s dining table.

What is the Epicuro Culinary Center Puerto Rico food experience?

Epicuro Culinary Centre has a chef’s dining table, a cooking school and specializes in hosting events. It’s not a restaurant but it is my favorite place to eat in San Juan. It’s no surprise that the Chef’s Table is my favorite restaurant in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has a lot of things to offer, but I think the culinary scene is my favorite.

The center also offers cooking classes and a Chef’s Table experience. This elegant, casual space is available for rent to host special events.

The maximum number of guests at the Chef’s table is 12. Photo by Epicuro Culinary Center

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How to get to the Epicuro Center for Culinary Arts

Isla Verde was my choice for accommodation during my last trip to San Juan. Isla Verde can be reached in less than 10 minutes by car from the airport. Here are many of the high-end resorts and luxury hotels on the island. Santurce is home to the Epicuro Culinary Center. Santurce has been experiencing a revitalization with many new cafes and restaurants opening. Santurce can be reached in just four miles from Isla Verde. You can take a taxi or Uber if you did not rent a vehicle at the airport. Address is 316 Avenida Jose de Diego in San Juan.

The Chef’s Table and wine pairings are often rotated to provide guests with the freshest Puerto Rican cuisine experience. Photo by Jill Robbins

The Chef’s table

The Chef’s Table is the ultimate Puerto Rican Food Experience. I would put it at the top of my list if I were to return to San Juan. This intimate experience takes you on a journey of culinary discovery that reflects the world travels of Chef Antonio Perez and his experience in many kitchens around the globe. The food is Puerto Rican with a local flair and a unique international flare. The open kitchen has 12 seats. The chef’s tables are a great way to be in the middle of the action. The atmosphere is inviting and warm, with a clean, upscale feel.

Sarah, the wife of Chef Perez, works with him (and they banter in a playful manner). The flow and synchronicity of their work makes it look effortless. They’re also having a lot of fun, and they enjoy each other’s company and the work they do. This creates an inviting atmosphere that will make guests feel as if they are sitting at a friend’s well-appointed, cozy kitchen counter.

The wine pairings (which are available at an additional cost) are optional, but if you like wine they are carefully selected to complement the flavors of your food. Photo by Jill Robbins

Five Small Courses with A+ Presentation

This experience is approximately two hours long and includes five small dishes. Wine pairings can be added at an extra cost. Even though guests will not be cooking, they are seated near enough to learn some tips and tricks. The chef and assistant talk to the guests as they prepare their meals. You have plenty of chances to ask questions. The chefs are happy to share any culinary knowledge they have, and there was no “I’m not going to tell you this–that’s our secret” or “I’m not allowed to say that.”

The portions are small, and the presentation is beautiful. The Chef’s Table experience left me feeling satisfied but not overfull. The food was perfect. These dishes are created and plated using a combination of textures and flavors. The result is not busy and is still exquisite.

Wines, liqueurs and other alcoholic beverages are available worldwide. I would recommend ending your meal with Cacao Elixir from Puerto Rico. Cacao Elixir has a similar taste to Bailey’s Irish Cream but is not cream-based.

Duck with roasted papaya and roasted eggplant. Photo by Jill Robbins

Locally sourced and Chef-driven

What’s the menu for the Chef’s Table Experience at The Chef’s Table? Chef Perez says, “It depends on who is at my door.” Ingredients for dinner are sourced locally and fresh. Menus are created weekly, and sometimes even every three days. Perez chooses the best, freshest produce and proteins in season and creates menus according to what is available and his skills.

Restaurants often use the phrases “farm-to-table” and “locally-sourced”. If you ask chefs and staff of the Epicuro Culinary Center about the ingredients in your dinner, they will be able tell you where they got them. For example, the produce vendor may have had lots of chard that week, which is why it’s on your plate. Take it a step further by challenging yourself to learn what the term “farm-to-table” means. Chefs who tout their restaurants as farm-to table can share a story about the food they serve. Chef Perez was a great example of this. He chatted with me throughout the entire two-hour session and helped me understand where my food came from.

Baby scallops with ginger and avocado. Photo by Jill Robbins

Cooking Classes

If you’re looking for a Puerto Rican cooking experience, the classes at the center will help you do that. The cooking classes at Epicuro are more hands-on than the Chef’s Table. Imagine that the Chef’s table is where you sit and watch a talented friend prepare a meal for you to enjoy. In the cooking classes, your friend will work alongside you and together you’ll cook a meal that you can both eat. You’ll have different experiences but will still win. Allocate three hours to classes.

I don’t use the word “friends” lightly. Perez’s staff and you will really feel like friends. It will feel like saying goodbye to old friends when you leave.

Chocolate souffle with hibiscus floral syrup Photo by Jill Robbins

Vegetarian options and accommodating dietary restrictions

The Epicuro Culinary Center is able to accommodate most dietary requirements, but advance notice is required due to its small size and reliance on fresh proteins and produce. Chef Perez said that the majority of dishes can be adapted for vegetarians, but guests need to know in advance to get the best experience. When booking, let the hotel know if you have any dietary restrictions.

Enjoy the Puerto Rico Food Experience!

Consider signing up for a class instead of the excursion offered by the cruise line if you are on a Cruise and stop in San Juan. Learn about Caribbean cuisine, and different ingredients from the island. You will receive an appetizer, then prepare and eat lunch with your instructor. Perez says that when you complete the special menu, “you will be an expert in Puerto Rican food.” The class is adjusted to fit your arrival time on San Juan. This three-hour course can begin as late as noon.

You can do a Puerto Rican cooking experience if you arrive in San Juan early in the morning. Photo by Epicuro Culinary Center

About the Chef

Chef Antonio Perez was born in Puerto Rico and has worked in hotels across the world, including the United States, Europe and Asia. He also spent time living and working throughout South America and the Caribbean. Chef Antonio Perez describes his cuisine as “a culinary journey through more two decades away from Puerto Rico.”

Chef Perez has published several books and is a member of Disciples of Escoffier International Chaine de Rotisseurs and Chefs de South America. He also won the Prestige Award for the Gourmand Cookbook Awards. Braising is his favorite method of cooking.

I think braising is happiness. Also, I like desserts like gateau, crepes, souffles, and custards. These are my weaknesses. What is his favorite food? Chef Perez keeps it simple: eggs. He loves a perfect, fluffy omelet as well as a genoise almond cake.

Sarah, a native of The Netherlands, is the wife and business partner of Chef Perez. We met in a kitchen in a hotel 20 years ago and have been inseparable since then.

Enjoying the demonstration. Photo by Discover Puerto Rico

Plan Your Own Puerto Rico Food Experience

Open table allows you to book your Chef’s Table at the Epicuro Culinary Center. The cost is $119 per person. The recommended wine pairings come at an extra cost. Be on time or a bit early for your Chef’s Table, especially if driving yourself. Late guests are given a grace period of 10 minutes. If you’re planning a trip to an island of the Caribbean, or another foodie location let Travel With Wonder guide your itinerary.