The country with the most diverse flora and fauna also has an amazingly diverse culinary offering. This is in part due to its geography. With two coasts and a lush central valley, there is a huge variety of seafood and tropical produce which adds to the richness of its gastronic offerings. The country’s capital, San Jose has a wealth of ethnic restaurants ranging from Lebanese, to Indian to Argentine and Peruvian. Here our our favourites from coast to coast:
Grano de Oro
Located in the beautiful turn of the century hotel of the same name along a quiet street in the center of San Jose, this elegant restaurant takes its food very seriously, offering an international menu known for the excellent presentation and innovative flavors of all its dishes. I would go just for the desserts but please try the roasted lamb chops with cilantro sauce and sautéed fennel . Ideal for breakfasts, lunches or romantic candlelit dinner. Tel. 2255-3322
Possibly the coolest location and setting for a place to enjoy amazing food, the restaurant is spread throughout the interior courtyard and garden of a stately old home that is an antiques treasure trove of a shop by day that transforms into a delightful restaurant at night. British chef Richard Neat, who ran a two star Michelin restaurant in London before bringing his talents to Costa Rica, will delight you with his creations and changes the menu seasonally. The shot featured is of a Fillet of Tuna with Aubergine Puree and Cerviche of Red Snapper with Tomato Concasse. Yum. Tel. 2290-6324
My favourite of the three because I know the owners who are a delightful and warm French Canadian family who moves to Costa Rica. Their San Jose restaurant serves the best fish and chips wrapped in newspaper too! They also have a second location on the beach in Santa Teresa too and harvest their own oysters too Tel. 2282-7767
Quinessential example of Caribbean Costa Rican cooking, that can be found along the shores of Playa Manzanillo. Maxi’s offers a huge menu of traditional Afro-Caribbean dishes with lobster as its house specialty, served with rice and beans cooked in fresh coconut milk. Try the fried plantains called patacones with guacamole, complimented with an ice cold beer while overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Charming chef and owner, Ricardo Barthley, is always amiable and quick to spread good vibes. Signature recipes have been handed down from Ricardo’s grandparents who immigrated here from Jamaica. Tel. 2798-3740
An authentic sushi restaurant that mixes Asian and Peruvian flavors with more than sushi on the menu for those not wanting nigiri or rolls. The décor resembles a typical Costa Rican bar. The chairs and tables are hand painted by members of the indigenous Maleku tribe, and they depict local flora and fauna. I recommend you order the Nayara Roll made of sweet plantains and cooked chicken, the Trio of Ceviches, or their classic, heart-shaped SushiAmor roll. Que rico. 2479-1600
Dragonfly Bar & Grill
One of the first and definitely still one of the most popular, Dragonfly offers al fresco dining and a unique menu that fuses generously portioned, traditional dishes from the U.S. southwest with hints of Latin and Asian cuisine. Enjoy fresh seafood every day in a casual beach atmosphere with dishes that are decidedly different and promise to surprise and delight the palate. Tel. 2653-1506
Great atmosphere and delightful dishes blending Latin American flavors and International cuisine. Enjoy the eclectic creativity of chef and owner, Sofia, who brings a unique twist to each of her signature dishes while overlooking the cool cloud forest. Tel. 2645-7017. Also check out their sister tapas restaurant Chimera (2645-6081).
If you are looking for something romantic, sophisticated with a low lit kind of feel, then you have found the answer when in Manuel Antonio. The gastronic delights of Chef Darren Remy delights diners with an innovative mix of savory and spice that will make your meal an experience in an of itself. I know I like to focus on desserts but honestly, you need to try the chocolate soufflé. Located between Quepos and Manuel Antonio National Park, Kapi Kapi has a fabulous team to serve you too. Tel. 2777-5049
Playa De L’Artisas
The setting alone makes for an awesome night out with rustic tables and driftwood aplenty, the ambience of this intimate Italian eatery is blissful and the perfect spot to listen to waves crashing on the shore while you dine Italian style. There is no menu, the team talk you through the delights for that night and bring you devine bottles of wine to accompany the flavours too. Be sure to book in advance in high season as there is not an abundance of seating. 2642-0920
Playa Hermosa De Santa Teresa
I have left the best two till last and I am a bit biased as I live down the road from both. Lucky me.
Authentic fresh Japanese dishes from chef Koji are the order of the day here. The quiet and unassuming road side place comes alive at dusk and is usually packed Wednesday’s through till Sundays. The décor is gorgeously rustic, full of beach chic creations and a very long and neatly written chalk board menu with sushi options as well as a wider Japanese list. The must have’s are pretty extensive but try the Crunch and Milasun rolls as well as the pork fried rice and chicken Gyosa. 2640 0815
Open from 10am, en route to Playa Hermosa, stopping at Couleur Café is a must throughout the day. Bustling with locals and tourists alike, French chef Sebastian offers a menu of the freshest ingredients, blending subtle flavours delivered by his fabulous team. He makes the best fish and chips and salads abound. Try the Hermosa salad for lunch and don’t forget to head there for dinners on Mondays and Tuesdays only. 2640-0677
Dahlia Nahome is the General Manager of Rancho Cielo.