Sash - I met a sociology professor who brought two sophisticated visitors from Lebanon to Sash. They declared that Sash served the best Lebanese food they had ever eaten anywhere including their native land. Praise to the owner’s mother for her extraordinary original recipes, to her son Bachir who spent thousands on long-distance phone calls to her to get everything as close to perfection as possible, and to the Lebanese chef who cranks out beautiful plate after tasty morsel. Yes, they offer all of the standards well prepared: kibbeh, kefta, falafel, babaganoush, shawarma, kebabs, lentil soup, tabouli and fatoush. But they are much more creative with every possible lamb variation like their fabulous dish of oven baked ground beef and pine nuts resulting in top and bottom crisp nutty layers filled with savory juicy meat redolent with parsley and oregano (kebbi saynie); a fine mince of white cheese seasoned with mint and oregano molded into a bowl with light olive oil in the well under a mound of diced tomato and onion (shankliche); dips of fabulous fresh garlic aioli alongside Panamanian chili-pepper hot sauce; and enough fresh flat bread on which to spread some of everything. Top it off with a perfect rendition of my favorite Middle Eastern dessert, knefe, a cheese pudding topped with sweet syrup and ground nuts, and you are ready for a nap with sweet dreams. Bachir owns the Mema Mall 200 meters south of Plaza Mayor in Rohrmoser. Turn south at Plaza Mayor and look for the restaurant and mall on the right (west) side of the street. The décor is festive with tent-like ceiling drapes, wrought iron light fixtures and regional carpets. The service is seamless. Costs are commensurate with value, but not outlandish. The greeter with short hair and light beard is Bachir. As you might have guessed, his last name is Mema. 2232-1010 On Sundays they are open from noon to 5PM. All other days noon to 3 for lunch and 6 to 10:30 for dinner. They have a beautiful second floor bar and a display of jarred preserves next to the wine racks inside the front door available for purchase. Bravo!
El Argentino Bistro & Bar - Distrito Cuatro is the new mall in Guachipelin north of Escazu on the west side of the road about half way between Paco Central commercial and the Pista del Sol. El Argentino is one of the several new restaurants there, and it may be the best. Though a bit pricey, the quality of ingredients and authentically prepared dishes under the eye of an Argentine expat owner and an Argentinean head chef make it a nice destination for lunch or dinner. When offices open on the second floor of the mall, they plan to add executive lunches to the menu. That should make their offerings more attractive to folks on a budget. Currently their meat offerings range from C18000 for typical mixed grill for two down to C 7000 for carne Milanesa, a thin beef schnitzel featured in every basic café in Buenos Aires. Unlike most Argentinean restaurants, this one has taken great pains to include vegetarian options including a baked empanada filled with yummy squash and honey, white cheese pizza with caramelized red onions, Moroccan salad, ensalada roja and gluten free flat little pancakes that they call blinis made from garbanzo flour topped with pureed sun-dried tomatoes, avocado and micro-greens. Camila Jurado’s eye for healthy food deserves much credit (email@example.com). They use local organic ingredients whenever possible. Good place for the vegetarian and partner craving a New York steak. Everything we tried was artistically plated, served hot and well seasoned. The bread, butter, and sweet pepper spread came with delicious cheese rolls. The staff is courteous, friendly and efficient. They open at noon every day and only close early (5PM) on Sunday. For a tantalizing look at their dishes, visit their Facebook site: Facebook/elargentinobistro 2228-4285
Biker’s Café - Adjacent to Mottos Chopper in San Rafael de Alajuela near the Belen border, this café serves burgers, hot dogs, buffalo wings, chili, etc., mostly to folks in motorcycle gear. The chili has the comparable flavor to any of the dozens I tasted at the Atenas chili cook off. Although it is hardly Texas-style beef chunk chili like they used to serve at Cow Town, it is my current favorite. The décor is Harley Davidson orange, black and white with an awesome big chopper on display. Immaculately clean. Pool tables, good service and no alcohol. Also serves Tico casados at lunchtime. When I complimented the waitress/cook on her chili, she said that she heard that Wendy’s also served great chili.
Che Pizza - Locals in Ciudad Colon love this three-in-one pizzeria, Argentine parrillada and Italian pasta place. North American ex-pats love it as a place to choose among several kinds of beer and wine, to watch sporting events on TV or to simply hang out. It attracts many folk from the University of Peace. Among the basic Italian dishes, the calzone is often highly touted along with a variety of pastas. A pair of Chicagoans committed blasphemy by extolling the pizza here as better than what they get in Chicago. Nearly 50% of the people in Argentina are descended from Italians. The two cuisines are often paired. For me the allure is the parilla, the Argentinean grill manned authentically and expertly by chef Mariano Sica from that country. In the rural north of Argentina in pampas cattle towns, I loved the charred grilled beef splashed with chimichurri sauce and accompanied by lightly charred potato halves off the same grill, dressed in local sour cream. For a lot less than the prices at the Argentinean steak houses scattered all over Costa Rica, you can dine on hefty portions of classically prepared grilled beef, mixed grill, pork ribs and chicken with the same style grill charred potatoes and a very nice small salad. Among my favorites are pork ribs grilled for C5000; mixed brochette of beef, chicken, bacon, sweet red peppers and onions C7000; and mixed grill for C8000. The setting is unpretentious simple but with a friendly feel. Diego, the exuberant young waiter offers outstanding chatty service with a permanent smile. Che Pizza is up (northwest) of the one-way eastbound main street up the block on the right from Gollo. 2249-0909.