The Bottom Line
- Inventive seafood dishes blend Caribbean and International flavors and techniques.
- Fantastic ceviche bar with creative departures from traditional ceviches.
- Neon-colored, ocean-inspired decor adds a cool vibe to the restaurant.
- Extensive raw bar with top-quality selections.
- If you can't or don't eat seafood, avoid it; your choices are limited.
- Try the watermelon sangria, Aguaviva's signature drink, or go for the killer mojitos.
- If you're here for lunch, order the fried calamari sandwich, a crispy and succulent alternative to the classic.
- Their swordfish chop is one of their most popular dishes, so if you want it, call ahead to make sure you get it.
Guide Review - Reinventing 'Rican Seafood: Aguaviva Makes a Splash Among San Juan's Restaurants
I love its whimsical decor: the super-cool neon blue, white and green jellyfish lamps, the water pattern on the floor, and the maritime artwork that all collaborates to make you feel, for an instant, that you're the one in the aquarium.
I love that fact that you'd have to be in an aquarium to get fresher seafood than the flown-in-daily oysters, shrimp and lobster claws available at the raw bar.
I love the way the menu takes risks that pay off. Example? If someone had told me they had made a paella using cous-cous instead of rice, I'd have them committed. But Aguaviva's Nueva Paella is just that, and it went head to head against Mario Batali in "Iron Chef."
Saving the best for last, I absolutely love the ceviche bar. For those of you who are familiar with this Peruvian specialty, you'll know it is a tart melange of citrus and fresh fish. Well, Aguaviva offers the traditional variety, but it also thinks way out of the box. Its ceviche menu includes flavor combinations of mango, lime and mahi-mahi; grouper, coconut and lime; garlic and marlin; mixed fish and a cold, spicy tomato-based sauce. Keeping to their Puerto Rican roots, Aguaviva serves their ceviches with tostones, or baked plantain patties, which balances the citrus perfectly. If you can't decide which one to order, get the sampler of all six.
All in all, you can't miss at Aguaviva, one of the most inventive of San Juan's restaurants, unless you came here looking for traditional Puerto Rican fare. Make sure it's on your list.