Growing up in New England, I looked forward to June as the beginning of seafood season and festivals from Connecticut to Maine nearly every weekend that ran until early October. Would that it were the case here in Tico Paradise. Better times are coming, however. A dozen years ago most Costa Rican seafood other than smallish shrimp and octopus, farmed tilapia and coastal corvina were exported and rarely reached local restaurants. There are now several options. Among my affluent friends, they rate Pescatore Restaurante (across from the BMW dealership south of Multiplaza, 2289-8010) and Product C (Avenida Escazú 2288-5570) as co-holders of top position. Both are excellent, but the cost of an appetizer, main course and non-alcoholic beverage is likely to cost $45-50 per person even at lunch. Of the two, I slightly favor Pescatore because of the Peruvian and Italian fusion options created by chef Regis Molina. Probably my favorite dish is risotto in green cilantro sauce studded with tender calamari tentacles and a few clams and mussels topped with perfectly grilled juicy corvina for about $21. So where do cost conscious diners go for seafood? Banco de Mariscos in Santa Barbara de Heredia, Go Fish Seafood Company in Curridabat and any of the Princesa Marina venues were always popular mid-range choices that we visited until we discovered these three lesser-known options that offer unadorned quality and value:
Cantinita Del Marisco - Joan and I love this little humble seafood eatery under the sign of a happy crab on the main street of Ciudad Colon. On the block between the two gas stations, it is across the street from the parking area of Maya’s Restaurant and Biergarten. Delightful co-owners Kathy and Wen are also waitress/hostess and chef. Their seafood is fresh every day and they are open from noon to midnight seven days a week. Joan particularly likes their fried shrimp, juicy, sweet and perfectly crusted (₡3800); and I am fond of smallish firm scallops in their shell sauced with a perfect light Parmesan flavored mornay sauce (₡5800). Both come with crisp fries and a small fresh salad dressed in Wen’s tasty thousand island dressing. Plating is artistic. For budget minded folk, a generous casado with a nice piece of grilled fish, maduro, rice, beans and salad is a bargain at ₡2500. Oysters are pricey as they are everywhere. Décor is minimalistic. Street parking is usually not a problem. What a nice addition to the ascendency of Ciudad Colon as a foodie destination. Added to Aroi Thai, Chez Pizza and Maya’s one can choose from authentic Thai flavors, Argentinian parillada and pizza, hearty German food and now fresh, well-prepared seafood.
A note about Maya’s. Dirk has moved on to a hotel in Nuevo Arenal, but the staff under new owner Alberto continues to serve the same tasty German food true to Dirk’s recipes.
La Fuente de los Mariscos - For thirty years, this no frills, noisy, chaotic, unromantic emporium between mall shops and the diesel smoke belching trucks on the Pan American Highway (Rte, 1), has been serving huge portions of very fresh seafood at reasonable prices to hordes of working local people. It sits on the service road of the highway in Centro Comercial San Jose 2000, adjacent to the Best Western Irazu in La Uruca. Climb the front stairs and go left. The only reason to go there is for the food, value and polite efficient service. Large, tasty chunks of garlic bread come unannounced. Many beverages come in small pitchers and the waiters keep glasses filled. The choices include lobster, squid, mussels, shrimp, pulpo, mahi-mahi, salmon, seafood platters and an assortment of rice or pasta dishes and large casados. Surprisingly, they offer some nice wines reasonably priced. 2231-0631
Marisqueria y Cevicheria Brisas del Mar - Muchas gracias to Tio Steve, Barbara and Bill V. for all touting my new favorite seafood restaurant in the entire Central Valley. It also evens the geography score with one of the three recommendations from west, center and east ends of the Central Valley. Brisas del Mar is in San Rafael de Heredia a half a block north of the gas station (up the one way street) on the left side of the road. The delightful owner and staff serve the very best ceviche I have ever tasted, whole corvina, fillets of white swordfish, outstanding fried shrimp perfectly prepared, Caribbean seafood soup with a little kick, well seasoned black bean puree, a great green drink of pineapple and basil and yummy pianguas (a mollusk from mangroves also called black clam). Five of us ate like royalty sharing two appetizers, two large soups, two shrimp dishes, a filet of swordfish and drinks all around for only a bit more than ₡20,000 total or about the price of bargain basement executive Tico lunch specials elsewhere. The menu also includes seafood casados, pasta and rice dishes, calamari, pulpo, baby langostines and inexpensive beer and soft drinks. They are packed on weekends but still serve efficiently and quickly. Atmosphere? Unpretentious. Blue walls. A few fish depictions and a fish net on the ceiling. Try not to miss the mixed ceviche, fried shrimp or pineapple basil drink. Very nice people, large portions of fresh seafood prepared flawlessly at bargain prices. If it were a little closer, I’d eat there very often. 2260-2544. Closed Monday. Tues –Thurs & Sun 11am to 9pm. Friday and Saturday 11am to 10 pm.