“Shrimp in LT is like shrimp nowhere else. I bet the best shrimp from around the world, swim/walk from all inches of the globe for the honor of being eaten in Las Terrenas. It. Is. That. Good.” – Me
On my last weekend trip to Las Terrenas, I held myself on a Las Terrenas diet: shrimp and garlic – all día, 24/siete – for no other reason than to find the best shrimp in town in a town that should compete in Shrimp Olympics. It was not a struggle.
There was no rhyme or reason to my picking the place. I’d drive by, stop, ask if they had shrimp. Yes? Ok. Me stay. So as to be a fair judge, I ordered the same thing at every place: camarones al ajillo (shrimp in garlic) and a drink. I did not include any places out of the main town and while I talk about other elements, the decision was made strictly about the camarones – not service or price, sides or presentation – just the straight up yum-yum-give-me-some factor.
(Look out for the DTWB Seal of Approval 🍷)
6. Lazy Dogs
» Drink of choice: mojito
Meh. Located in Pueblo de Los Pescadores, I had high hopes for Lazy Dog. It is a fabulous place to sit and enjoy the view – I mean, seriously, I can sit and enjoy a beer and watch my kids play right in the sand in front of me – but as far as the shrimp went – skip it. The shrimp came in an alfredo sauce – which is very much not al ajillo and what I asked about – and the alfredo sauce was ordinary at best. The shrimp weren’t as buttery and succulent as in many of the other restaurants and it was the most expensive. I’m not sure why Trip Advisor has it ranked so high. Maybe I went on a bad day.
5. Pizza Coco
» Drink of choice: Presidente beer
At Coco Pizza, the shrimp was, what I would call, average good for Las Terrenas, which in normal standards is still good, but not to be the best in LT. The shrimp tasted fresh and the sauce was a typical garlic sauce but there wasn’t anything stand out about the dish.
4. Costa Arena
» Drink of choice: Rum and pineapple
This is the epitome of al ajillo: garlicky, heavenly goodness from the Gods. If I was judging based on the garlic sauce, this would be a front runner. The shrimp was enjoyable, buttery and moist but lacked a fullness that some of the other places had.
“Let’s just say that at this point in the list, if any of the following places were located in the States, it would be the best shrimp that has ever entered my mouth.” – Me again
3. ZU Ceviche & Brasserie
» Drink of choice: Rum and chinola juice
If my review was based on the whole package, ZU would have been on top by leagues. The ambience at ZU was on point – a trendy and cozy beach vibe with zero stuffy attitude. The ZU crew was welcoming, attentive, and personable. One bartender/waiter asked me if I liked certain flavors before adding them to my plate which made me feel like I was ordering à la specifically-for-me at some exclusive beach club as opposed to off the menu. Wow. The presentation of the dish was also high above the rest. It was a plate that could be served at NYC’s finest restaurants and you’d easily pay double the price and not blink an eye. And the actual food on the plate shrimp and sides together were overall top notch. I could have smothered that onion alone on my body. But again, I have to put all the extras aside; I’m just judging the shrimp. Rules are rules.
So let me lead with this about the shrimp dish: I almost ate an eyeball and could care less. Because yum. Of all the shrimp in garlic dishes I ordered, ZU’s was the most complex in flavor. The sauce could only be described as layers that built up the dish and not one single layer that laid flat. The plate as a whole was excellent.
2. Playa Caribe 🍷
» Drink of choice: Presidente beer
At this point, you should be asking yourself, how it could possibly get better? It would certainly be a valid question. And Playa Caribe would be one answer. This isn’t the first time I’ve ordered camarones al ajillo at this spot which should speak volumes. The garlic sauce is a rich buttery pool of what the yum and the shrimp is so fresh that I’m certain they just fished it out of the ocean. Like, right now. Like I ordered it and they sent someone out diving for shrimp to then put on my plate. The shrimp is so moist, so soft, so rich tasting that hot damn. Just hot damn. The presentation here is basic: shrimp on a plate. Nothing else needed. The shrimp speaks for itself.
1. Tu Casa 🍷
» Drink of choice: caipirinha
It was going to take a lot for me to beat Playa Caribe and their eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-my-head-shrimp goodness. They should call it the Jesus, Maria, and Jose Shrimp because Jesus, Mary and Joseph is it wickedly good. Tu Casa is located on the main street so there’s no beautiful beach view of the ocean to sell you, in fact, there’s nothing that about this place that jumps out at you. Heck, I’m not sure why I stopped but isn’t that the beauty of discovery – opening your mind to the possibility of greatness. Isn’t that how Columbus discovered America? By accident. This is my America.
I hopped off my ATV and for a moment was unsure of my decision. But I had already asked if they had shrimp and so I ordered my cocktail and took a seat. The guy, who I assumed was the owner, yelled my order through the front window, where the chef was a lady that slightly reminded me of my Abuelita Hilda: a regular woman who small in size and big in flavor; she could cook the pants off of anything. I knew by the look of it, before I tasted it, that the shrimp was on a different level.
It took one bite. Love.
The shrimp, like at Caribe were buttery soft and full-flavored. Add it to the garlic sauce that was on a visceral-seep-into-my-bones level and voilà. Mmm … is that a touch of cilantro I’m tasting? Mmmm … delicious I’d moan. In between my seductive groaning of the food I asked the owner, a French expatriate, about the shrimp. “Anis,” he answered. He saw the uncertainty on my face so told me to wait with his hands and scurried to the kitchen where he grabbed a bottle to show me. I smelled it. Licorice? He repeated, “Anis,” and I understood. He acted out how at a certain point in the cooking, he splashed this anise liqueur to char the shrimp and, “Whoosh!” He acted out with his whole body, being the flame that explodes from the pan when you add alcohol to fire.
Tu Casa is a place that you might roll by and not give a second glance. You might even miss it if you weren’t looking for it. I can’t vouch for everything else on the menu but do yourself a favor and order the camarones al ajillo here. You won’t be disappointed and at the lowest cost of all of the restaurants – by HALF (280 pesos – not even $7) – the price of discovery has never been so cheap
Besides a couple of misses, most restaurants in las Terrenas, as far as shrimp goes, are going to be a hit so don’t be afraid to discover new restaurants. And if you find a place worth mentioning, I’d love to know about it.
~ UNTIL THE NEXT BOTTLE ~
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