Update: Unfortunately Arlequin has closed. The restaurant that has replaced it is called San Borondon; a typical Canarian and seafood restaurant. It’s always a shame to see somewhere a bit different replaced by one that is no different from hundreds of others.
Chilean tapas. I’m not even sure I knew there was such a thing as Chilean tapas. After trying some at the Arlequin restaurant in Playa San Juan, I’m kicking myself for missing out on what is a tasty and creative culinary culture. Chilean tapas were a revelation.
We heard about the Arlequin whilst doing research into what was going on in the Tenerife restaurant scene. A glowing report from the film crew working on the set of Fast and Furious 6 caught our eye. We filed it away under ‘a definite to try next time we’re in Playa San Juan’.
When friends, Chris and Lorna, visited Tenerife the other week at the same time as we were staying at the Abama Hotel it gave us a good excuse to try the restaurant out.
Arlequin is located on Playa San Juan’s seafront, which was bustling on a balmy Thursday night. The restaurant has a choice of outdoor or indoor seating with big windows offering expansive sea views. We sat inside but with the window wide open. It was an extremely sultry night.
It was the sort of place where we immediately felt chilled, thanks mainly to the easy friendliness of owners Juan Carlos and Verónica who never stopped smiling even though we were the kings and queens of indecision.
The first surprise was being given a tablet (a 21st century one rather than one you down with a glass of water) to have a look at images of the food. Apart from being innovative, it was very useful as the Chilean names on the menu didn’t mean an awful lot.
Chilean Tapas: The Food at Arlequin
After a lot of discussion, a few last minute changes of mind and much humming and hawing (everything looked good) we managed to whittle things down to a meal.
First up was sopaipillas – pumpkin bread with a fresh tomato and onion salad. The pumpkin bread was more like fritters. This was one of those dishes that you’re sorry to get first. It was so good that anything that came after was bound to be a disappointment. Then again, maybe not.
Fried cheese with jam is a tapas classic but Arlequin managed to come up with a slightly different take, the hot creamy cheese being shaped like cylinders with the lightest crispy coating. Two successes out of two.
Dish number three was a real curio, a spiced meaty stew that looked like crème brulée. Pastel de choclo is topped with a layer of creamed corn that caramelises when cooked, giving the dish a wonderful sweet and savoury flavour. It was an unusual and delicious dish and we wolfed it down.
Last of the savoury dishes was chorillana; a simple Chilean dish of French fries layered with strips of spiced beef and onions and rounded off with a blanket of fried eggs and fresh herbs. Simple, apart from the fact that the eggs in question were quails’ eggs.
To maintain the Chilean theme, the tapas were accompanied by a couple of bottles of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon which slipped down the throat like a downhill racer on a ski slope.
Traditional desserts on Tenerife can often be on the bland and unexciting side. Arlequin managed to come up with an eyebrow-raiser even in this department. A tarta with moist sponge cake topped by cream was good but white chocolate soup with pumpkin cake was a trophy winner and yes, it really was a white chocolate soup.
After a couple of hours of chatting, laughing and thoroughly revelling in our first foray into the world of Chilean tapas, our meal was finished off with a round of complimentary chopitos (shots).
It’s no wonder the Fast and Furious crew made Arlequin their home. It has all the right ingredients for a fun and fulfilling dining experience where ‘talking point’ cuisine exceeds its promise. We loved it and Juan Carlos and Verónica were the sweetest of hosts.
The only downside was that there were a lot of other things I’d liked to have tried.
In the words of Arnie Schwarzenegger – I’ll be back.
Restaurant Arlequin; Avenida El Emigrante, 14; Playa San Juan; (+34) 922 134 179; generous tapas are around 7 euros. Our meal for four with drinks included came in at under €70.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+