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Balls and Trifongo at El Patio de Sam

Great balls of cheese.
Great balls of cheese.

In a desperate search for good, authentic Puerto Rican food before leaving San Juan, we made our way to El Patio de Sam, once again in the old city. There we were greeted by perhaps one of the best waitresses in San Juan, as she not only made us feel welcome, but convinced us to start our meal off with an appetizer.

That appetizer was Bolitas de Queso (Fried Cheese Balls) and the real kicker that got us to order them was that they came with a guava sauce. I must say that these were a delicious way to begin the meal. The balls were filled with gouda, lightly breaded and fried to a perfect gooeyness. And while just eating pure fried cheese is good, the guava sauce really made the balls special, adding sweet to the salty.

I'll have all three fongos, thanks.
I’ll have all three fongos, thanks.

As for the main course, I went with the Trifongo with Pollo Criollo. The trifongo is a variation of mofongo, but includes mashed yucca and sweet plantains along with the regular savory plantains, while pollo criollo is chicken in a special sauce. Well, it turns out that the trifongo is pretty fantastic. It’s a careful balance of great flavors, but unfortunately the filling wasn’t so hot. The chicken was kinda chewy, while the sauce was, well, just a weird tomato sauce.

So El Patio de Sam turned out to be a mix of things, both good and bad. You could probably do a whole lot worse, but I couldn’t help thinking Sam could have done better as well. And by the way, the prices at El Patio de Sam made me feel that way even more.