In the historic Hotel El Convento, the focal point of El Picoteo tapas and paella bar (100 Calle Cristo, 787/723-9020, 787/721-2877, or 800/468-2779, elconvento [at] aol [dot] com, www.elconvento.com, daily noon–11 p.m., $7–29) is the original woodstove of the former convent, which was built in the mid-17th century. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by an enormous wax-covered altar packed willy-nilly with whimsical ceramic roosters and half-melted candles. The main dining room is in the hotel courtyard, but there’s also dining at the long tile bar overlooking the open kitchen.
The traditional Spanish tapas include stiff planks of Manchego cheese, thin slices of buttery serrano ham, fresh sardines, and a variety of olives. Bypass the mushy, oily eggplant and roasted red-pepper salad, but definitely order the fiery bite-size chorizo sausages served in a pool of thin heady brandy sauce. Among the varieties of paellas is one prepared with nutty, earthy black rice and chock-full of shrimp, calamari, and chunks of dorado.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition