There's a first time for everything. I was able to ring in the new year overseas in Punta Cana. I usually celebrate NYE in my hometown of Chicago, but as an avid travel enthusiast, it only seemed right to celebrate the arrival of 2017 in a native land where palm trees replaced skyscrapers and gorgeous saltwater beaches replaced concrete sidewalks.
Punta Cana, the eastern tip of the Dominican Republic where the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet. The island is known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, popular tourist excursions and an array of lavish all inclusive resorts like Alsol Luxury Village (the resort my fiancé and I stayed in) that stretch along the water. The island's rich culture and history screams beauty within the natives themselves - a rainbow of melanin, speaking in Spanish tongues. With one full day left before returning to the states, my fiancé Nieman and I couldn't leave this beautiful country without trying La Mona Restaurant at Cap Cana - a local hot spot known for it's nouvelle cuisine, beach style cocktails and out of this world views of the Caribbean Sea.
We were seated and our stomachs were growling with anticipation. Before ordering anything on the menu, we took a few minutes to appreciate the view. We were literally staring out into the Caribbean Sea. The waters were shades of deep blues and crystal clear. The view added an even greater experience to the already stunning outdoor ambience of dining on Juanillo Beach, where La Mona Restaurant resides.
After basking in the view, it was time for the good stuff. The food.
Tuna Tartar: Ordered straight from the "Raw" section of the menu, we were served Yellowtail tuna marinated in citrus, spicy mayo, avocado and tomatoes accompanied with a side of crispy sweet potato chips. I'm not much of a tartar fan, but the succulence of the tuna, tang from the citrus and a small kick from the spicy mayo did this dish much justice. I recommend putting a small dab of tuna tartar on a crispy sweet potato chip to add a bit of crunch to contrast the soft texture.
Thinly sliced Kobe Tiradito: Kobe beef is considered one of the top three brands of beef from the Japanese raised Wagyu cattle and a known delicacy. I now understand why Nieman insisted on trying this dish. Each thinly sliced beef was filled with flavor, tenderness and the perfect amount of fatty texture every meat lover would appreciate. A must try as a starter.
Chicano Ceviche: We shifted from the Kobe Tiradito to a heavily Mexican influenced dish off the "Mexican Summer" section of the menu. Out of all choices, the Chicano Ceviche won our hearts. The dish consisted of shrimps marinated in a coriander pesto, rocoto, fresh guacamole and crispy tortilla chips all garnished with jalapeños, onions, and delicious Peruvian roasted corn. If you're looking for a light, refreshing dish that's not too heavy, then this my friend is for you.
Grilled Lobster: The finale to our feast was a 5 pound grilled lobster garnished with lime and a side of garlic butter. By far one of the freshest lobsters I've tasted in my lifetime. So fresh to the point where you can still taste traces of the natural salt water caught from the Caribbean Sea. I recommend squeezing some juice from the limes on the lobster meat which pairs well when dipping it into the simple but flavorful garlic butter. Believe me when I say this, when it comes to seasoning, you need nothing more.
After rounds of delicious starters and entrees, it was time to wash it all down with some beach themed cocktails to cool us down. The Mai Tai was Nieman's drink of choice. I chose the Banana Colada because anything with "colada" at the end of it has to be good.
Our stomachs wanted to forfeit even though our taste buds kept wanting more. We decided to keep dessert sweet and simple with the Vanilla Bean ice cream. The dessert came out in a cute waffle cone shaped cup and surprisingly enough for a party of two. The richness of the vanilla bean in every scoop is what made this simple dessert unique.
A big thanks to La Mona Restaurant's General Manager Alix Puntiel who greeted us with his warm smile and hospitality. A month before coming to Punta Cana, I reached out to the restaurant to cover for the blog with a goal to highlight at least one local hot spot during my time there to share with my readers and travel enthusiasts alike. With only one full day left before leaving to head back to Chicago, I was worried I wouldn't make it to the restaurant in time. But fate brought me here and Alix Putiel made it happen.
If you're ever in Punta Cana or it's on your bucket list of destinations to visit, this beach dining oasis should not go unnoticed. I highly recommend it. We can't wait to come back. You have a couple new fans.
*LA MONA RESTAURANT AT CAP CANA PROVIDED ALL FOOD COMPLIMENTARY. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.