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My new updated book, Feasting in Costa Rica’s Central Valley, will soon be available in paperback or digitally at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Booklocker and Ingram.
As promised last month, here are more alphabetically four-star restaurants:
1) La Galeria (Restaurante Galeria Steakhouse) **** $$
2) La Maisa **** $$$$
3) La Tache **** $$$
4) La Terrasse **** $$$
5) Le Chandelier **** $$$-$$$$
6) Martin Fierro **** $$$$
7) Naans & Curries **** $$
8) 8ctavo **** $$$
9) Saga **** $$$
10) Tin Jo **** $$$
11) Xandari Resort & Spa restaurant **** $$$
This month the focus swings to Santa Ana for two newcomers and to Escazu for a third.
Al Tapas moved into the space vacated by Product C about four months ago and three brothers from Barcelona have replicated a modern, attractive Catalan restaurant and true tapas bar with seats encircling a central serving space adorned with displays of small dishes prepared daily. One of the brothers is the architect who crafted simple elegance from wood, glass and rebar. The pale blond wood, black and gray walls and pictures and vertical rebar cages for wine and liquor bottles meld beautifully. The other two brothers run the restaurant and are delighted to share concepts and ingredients with diners. They are charming. The cooks prepare classic recipes expertly and plate with artistic finesse. The flavors rock.
Tapas plates by definition are small. Imported ingredients are costly. So be prepared to pay C3000-6000 per plate. The regular menu covers all Iberian bases. A weekday executive lunch special is C6000. The one I tried was a winner. Cream of mushroom soup came steaming, dark, rich, and drizzled with a bit of olive oil. It contained no milk or cream, only puree of brown mushrooms, vegetable stock, onions and sherry reduced until it reached velvety texture and exploded with flavor. It was one of the best mushroom soups ever. The second course, a spherical mound of shredded ox tail meat in a sauce of reduced red wine came with buttery quenelles of mashed potatoes. Another winner. Finally I tasted two desserts, a crema Catalana brûlée and tiramisu. Both were very good. I also tasted very well seasoned pickled sardines, calamari, roasted potato cubes dressed in spicy tomato cream and tomato toast. The sangria was exceptional. For the two of us, all of the above plus an imported beer, came to C23,000. Well spent and thoroughly enjoyed. On the next visit, I had manitas de cerdo, a stew of pig foot meat and skin with garbanzo beans. Quite tasty. We sampled creamy slightly spicy Cordoba-style gazpacho and a tuna chunk and potato dish cooked in a seafood broth that tasted of clams. The very large pair of menus offer a nearly endless variety of seafood, pasta, rice dishes including paella, meats, cheeses and sausages. From what I witnessed at an adjacent table of ten, calamari rings, meatballs, morcilla blood sausage, imported manchego cheese, clams in green sauce and steamed mussels came and went along with pitchers of sangria to happy diners.
Drink options include a nice selection of imported beers and wines and batidos, and stylish coffees.
They are located about 150 meters north of Cruz Roja between Bufalo Grill and Lo Spago. Hours: closed Monday. 6 PM to 2 AM Tuesday. Noon to 2 am, Wednesday thru Sunday. Phone: 2282-4871.
Tap House has rapidly become a Gringo watering hole and meeting place where staff and diners are already on a first name basis. The owner is originally from Fort Worth. A very large flag of Texas adorns the back wall. Beer and burgers rule. Several beers come on tap and many more in bottles. An interesting offering delivers six different sampler beer glasses in a wooden rack. The burgers range from $9 to $10, are fairly large and flavorful and come with fries, coleslaw or potato salad. The chipotle, blue cheese burger is my favorite. The pulled pork sandwich and barbecued brisket sandwiches are excellent. Four or five of us ex-pats often eat there together on Monday nights. Not a gourmet destination, but a comfortable place to kick back with friends and eat good bar food. The service is most pleasant. We usually come up with cures for all the world’s ills after a single beer, and forget them after a second. They are located 100 meters east of Bacchus on the left. As you head north from central Santa Ana from the old Escazú road where the one way and two way parts join, turn right at the cross street where Bacchus is around the corner to the left and Café Lago is straight ahead. It is just up the block in a small strip mall on the left. Mon - Sat: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm. Sun: 9:00 am - 10:00 pm Phone: 4702-1534.
Sicilia Delicatessen A smallish new Plaza Metro attached to the Aliss building in Escazú is a semicircle of eateries including this gem plus Pan y Vino, the new downsized Henry’s, a gelateria, a buffet restaurant, a yogurt shop and a cevicheria. From the Multiplaza circle, it is 200 meters south past and across from the Davivienda Tower. The primary attraction for me of Sicilia Delicatessen is its bright cheerful deli loaded with Sicilian imports, absolutely charming owners (Giovanni) and partner (Michelle), plus Aldo, a seasoned chef from Rome who knows and delivers fine Sicilian meals. Giovanni is a cook and unabashed lover of food whose obsession with fine eats defines our common DNA. Among the dozens of food and wine selections on their shelves is an absolutely divine jar of anchovies wrapped around pistachio nuts. If you adore good Sicilian food as I do, you are accustomed to discovering the delights of anchovies, pistachios, capers, tuna, veal, eggplant, fennel, sardines and the delicate adding of depth and flavor upon flavor in subtle layers to seemingly simple dishes. The menu changes daily. Two sample days listed Lasagna Siciliana, Corvina Mediterránea, Panini Siciliana, Penne Siciliana, osso buco and Vitello tonnato all for C4500-5000.
After fine complimentary bocas, we shared typical a typical Sicilian lasagna and a dish of veal in tuna sauce. WOW! Both were perfect. The lasagna was finely layered without stifling tomato sauce or oozing excessive olive oil. It was delicate, creamy and flavored expertly with an almost imperceptible hint of anchovy, properly rinsed capers, finely ground flavorful meat and creamy cheese.
The veal was perfectly cooked cold thin pink slices bathed in classic tuna sauce with anchovies delicately blended into the smooth sauce, dotted with capers and served aside fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, crisp Romaine lettuce and a swirl of marinated kale. The last time I had a dish of similar quality was in Agrigento on Sicily’s east coast, adjacent to Giovanni’s beachfront hometown.
Later in the day, Aldo can prepare an antipasto from the panoply of top notch Sicilian imported meats and cheeses on a wooden lazy Susan atop a cutting board. He offered and we tasted scrumptious bits from his platter.
In their first week they have made devotees out of Joan and me. On our second visit Joan had the Sicilian Panini and offered me a bite. It was as good as any sandwich in Costa Rica. The outstanding, beautifully crusty bread is baked by a local woman in her home. My penne pasta was al dente and tasty with capers, sweet red peppers, homemade sausage crumble and a nice light sauce. In only its second week of business, all five tables were full by the time we finished lunch. We shall return often. Unless you are a very special friend, I am not likely to share my stash of pistachios wrapped in anchovies.
Monday thru Thursday 10 am to 7 pm. Friday and Saturday 10 am to 10 pm.Phone 4030-6959
Now Closed: Bagelmen’s - Lindora, Product C - Santa Ana, Chapu Pizza - Ciruelas