Feedback matters. Restaurants change. Good chefs have bad days. Places that are less than stellar may serve an occasional fine meal. Locations and menus change. I thrive on multiple opinions and suggestions. Sometimes I get it wrong even after two or three visits. Without feedback, I may never have a chance to correct fallacious impressions.
Rita is a business traveler throughout Meso America. Her favorite seafood restaurant by far is Restaurante Pescatore. She softened me up first by complementing me on my recently published restaurant guide and food book, Feasting in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Then she admonished me for not raving about Restaurante Pescatore and not giving it more than three stars. My first visit should have been discounted because they were still evolving. It was underwhelming. My second visit was absolute perfection. I gave them a positive three stars, but fairly bland endorsement in the book. After Rita called me a few choice names, I polled a dozen friends who are knowledgeable diners. My question to them was “What is the best seafood restaurant in the Central Valley?” Seven said Restaurante Pescatore, two touted Product C and three other venues got a single vote. Back to Restaurante Pescatore for a third visit. Mea Culpa. They get a fourth star and the hyperbolic rave they deserve. Thanks Rita.
Al touted the Eggs Benedict at Te Con Te in Momentum. “And for only C 4000, what a bargain!” Perfectly poached eggs on toasted English muffin exactly as ordered, but no Hollandaise sauce, Canadian bacon, regular bacon or even deli ham. Sorry Al.
If you want first class Eggs Benedict, however, I have a tip for you. After Galeria Steakhouse left Grecia for Escazú, my numerous Grecia friends lamented the lack of an exciting restaurant on their turf. They are happy again and raving about a breakfast and lunch place called Cilantro Café. Kevin, the young chef left his home in Grecia a dozen years ago to see the world and to learn how to use foreign ingredients and prepare worldwide cuisines. On board ships for Crystal Cruise Lines, he visited ports in India, Vietnam, Thailand, China and more. In each port, a local chef came on board with a bevy of new, different local ingredients and taught the kitchen cooks how to prepare them. With demanding clientele mostly from Western Europe, he had to perfect individual Wellingtons with similar crusts and a variety of different doneness orders for the beef inside. He garnered more and more culinary skills by doing, not watching. On one such cruise he met his wife, Bronwyn, from South Africa and they settled there for five years while he mastered yet another cuisine. Now they are back in his hometown of Grecia. In mid October they opened Cilantro Café. After just their first week, I heard from four different joyful Grecians singing praises for the place, the food, the artistic presentations, the charming couple and the very low prices for the quality. My first taste? Eggs benedict: Two poached eggs on crunchy bacon atop a crisp yuca pancake, napped in slightly citrus flavored excellent Hollandaise and surrounded by grilled halves of cherry tomatoes and a green herb-flecked oil. And less costly even than Al’s “bargain” recommendation. I can also vouch for a classic from South Africa, spicy beef and dark beer pie with nice mixed salad, an onion-tomato chutney with perfectly balanced sweet and spicy elements and a fine well-seasoned slightly spicy tandoori chicken sandwich. I had ginger flavored limeade with my lunch. Two days later he introduced his pulled pork sandwich. Fabulous flavor. His sourdough French toast also draws raves. Open Tuesday thru Saturday from 6 AM to 3PM
Lou called me out after a visit to Mike’s Southwest Grill. I had praised his North American-style fast food and of course his cheesecakes. When he closed Big Apple Cheesecake in Heredia and moved up the road, his new clientele was nearly all Tico and his fast food changed away from Gringo to pure Tico. Lou preferred the old style burgers and chili dogs to their new incarnation. I tried both and have to agree with Lou, but the cheesecakes remain GREAT. Mike is a charming host and his cheesecake business is spreading to more markets all the time.
Shan Xing is a family run pleasant Cantonese restaurant in Ciruelas that offers better-than-average Tico style Chinese food in nice surroundings by efficient pleasant staff. Locals flock there for lunch. I have ordered or tasted many of their dishes and they are fine. Flor asked me if I included it in the book. I should have, but didn’t. Thanks Flor.
I owe Steve and his charming wife Barbara an apology. Oporto in Heredia was once their favorite and among my favorites as well. After a hiatus of years, I revisited the place and had an average meal with impersonal service at much higher price than before. The three sisters who created it were no longer part of the scene. I guessed that they had retired. An aberration? I discounted it at the time. When they opened a new place in Alajuela, I had a similar average, but pricey experience with a menu that no longer was eclectic. Not long after my visit they closed in Alajuela. I should have rewritten and downgraded my previous endorsement.
I believed the owner of Chester in San Rafael de Alajuela when he showed me his new outdoor oven for Hawaiian style roast pig. The oven roasted only chicken and ribs. Ty from Hawaii went there on my recommendation looking for roast pig. Sorry.
Indigo and its three Tico stars are gone from the same San Rafael de Alajuela. They will be missed. So too will Sushi Kai be missed. My favorite sushi and Japanese food locale is now empty on the Santa Ana Radial.
Thanks go to Neal and Judy for alerting me to Kalu’s move to Calle 31 near Avenida 7 in Barrio Escalante 50 meters east of Parque Francia. Located a mere three blocks from the Eugene O’Neill theater where we often go to see Metropolitan Opera simulcasts, the new Kalu (Kalu & Kiosco) is of course endowed with the culinary excellence of master chef Camille Ratton. The marvelous international menu includes the very best Bun (beef or chicken) I have had this side of Vietnam dressed with spot on nuoc cham. Other terrific dishes included creative eggplant falafel, very good Thai chicken and an amazing Italian dish of oversized delicate raviolis called ravioloni, filled with a perfect duxelle of wild mushrooms and sauced with a butter wine coating that added only perfection topped with perfectly prepared shrimp. And of course her tarts remain world class, but portion sizes are large, so we took the tarts home for deferred consumption. Visit their Facebook page for untold raves. You can no longer “friend” them because so many appreciative diners have done so, that they have reached their max. Tel. 2253-8426 or 2253-8367
Be sure to join us again in the New Year for an comprehensive appraisal of P.F. Chang and an introduction to seafood restaurants from Heredia to Grecia.
Email me at email@example.com and put food in the subject line to bypass my spam filter. Happy Holidays.