COSTA RICA EXTRA – While the expertly prepared seafood platters at Costa Rica’s upscale resorts will satisfy your appetite for fish, it’s the freshly caught selections seasoned and served by chefs who source their own fish that have taken Costa Rica’s seafood scene by storm.
At Product C in San Jose, a Canadian chef who settled on Costa Rica mainly for its abundant seafood has spearheaded a movement to use sustainably sourced fish from smaller local fishermen, raising awareness about the importance of seafood industry practices and bringing a new kind of fresh fish to the table. The menu includes four types of ceviche from fish caught fresh each day. Foodies and fish lovers have long been flocking- but still in small numbers- to the Caribbean coast for the freshest seafood served steps from the shore.
At La Pecora Nera, the Italian chef raises most of his own ingredients, and if he hasn’t caught the fish of the day himself, he knows who has. In the old-fashioned town of Cahuita, Sobre Las Olas is a romantic restaurant perched on the water’s edge where seafood is the main attraction- mussels on the half shell are a favorite appetizer and leave just enough room for a main course of a fresh caught filet.
Samurai Sushi is perhaps the best sushi to be found in San Jose, if not all of Costa Rica, and they have excellent Teppan Yaki, too. After months of searching, it was a pleasure to stumble upon this place in Escaz–, not where it would not necessarily be expected. Served in true Japanese style, each dish is expertly prepared by a staff of well-qualified chefs who whip each roll and piece of tempura into an art form before presenting it to you. Hot and cold sake are available, and the menu is diverse enough to satisfy even the finickiest of sushi eaters. (2288 0202)
Chile Rojo is perhaps Puerto Viejo de Limon’s most popular restaurant with locals and tourists, but that doesn’t mean it’s always crowded. Contrarily, even on the busiest of nights, it’s not uncommon to score a great table; occupying an open-air, second level space in the center of town, every seat at Chile Rojo offers an excellent view. Billing itself as “Thai Fusion Cuisine and Sushi Bar,” Chile Rojo is also a live music venue for local acts, and a champion of the “farm to fork” movement. Fresh caught fish is a focal point here, though there are often guest stars, such as the locally raised lamb that was featured in a curry. Mondays there is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and Fridays and Saturdays there is live music. (506 2750 0025)
The first of its kind in Puerto Viejo de Limon, KOKI Beach is a truly eco-friendly establishment; a bar, restaurant and lounge made almost entirely from reclaimed materials that takes relaxing and dining and turns them into art forms. With a full bar and a lunch and dinner menu that incorporates lots of local organic produce, Koki Beach invites guests to relax and stay awhile, while giving them plenty to look at- the water’s edge is just across the way, and the design details like the unique chair collection and tables made from old doors will have you feeling inspired, and impressed. (0000000)
If delicious authentic Italian cuisine served in a delightful open-air restaurant well off-the beaten track on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than La Pecora Nera. The Italian chef Ilario is as charismatic as he is talented in the kitchen, and his recommendations of daily specials are always spot on, but you can’t go wrong with anything on the simple yet well-rounded menu. It’s romantic yet family-friendly, unpretentious yet undeniably special, and easily one of the top 10 best restaurants in Costa Rica, but since it’s not so easy to get to, there’s rarely, if ever a crowd. (2750-0490)
For excellent seafood, La Fuente is the place. Overlooking a busy parking lot and highway, it’s perhaps not where one may expect to find delicious ceviche and stand=out langosta (lobster) but indeed it is. The inside is so small you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the wait staff and bartender, but the outside tables are accommodating enough, and once the food arrives, it won’t matter that there are no candles or fancy tablecloths. Though seafood is clearly the specialty, the menu includes a fine selection of other options, from filet mignon to cheeseburgers, everyone can find something to feast on here. Portions are generous and if it takes awhile for your plate to arrive, all the more time to work up an appetite to savor the flavors that won’t disappoint. And, there is a full bar. (22310631)
What started as a simple hotel café has expanded to become one of the country’s finest restaurants with well-earned reputation. Casually elegant, this restaurant is situated off the Grano de Oro Hotel’s central courtyard which provides for pleasant seating options on cooperative days. A Frech chef is behind the European menu has Costa Rican influences and changes regularly, featuring seafood, beef, chicken and vegetable offerings. If it’s available on your visit, try the macadamia-encrusted corvina or the Gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon, but truly whatever you choose will shine. And most certainly make room for dessert as the offerings here are scrumptious. (506-2255-3322)
In the southernmost corner of Costa Rica in the postcard perfect region known as the Osa Peninsula, lies Il Giardino, the first, and many agree, the best, Italian restaurant in Puerto Jimenez, owned and operated by an Italian family that takes nothing more seriously than providing a delightful, thoughtful dining experience. At Il Giradino, the food is deeply rooted in family tradition; each recipe is a family secret, right down to the made to order and from scratch pastas and even lasagna. Daily specials include catch-of-the-day seafood, and there is a wine selection for everything. Nowhere else in the Osa can you enjoy such fine Italian food, exceptional service and take in a relaxing ocean view while feasting on scrumptious Italian fare. (506 2735 5129)
With a name like Chimera, one might expect an a diverse selection of food, and this Santa Elena restaurant delivers. Every plate is a creative fusion of flavors, many of which are Latin, all of which are wrought from the bounty of local ingredients that only the little enclave of Santa Elena, near the Monteverde Cloudforest, can offer. Tapas are the perfect solution for hungry travelers, and Chimera has a way with them. Perfect for sharing among a group of friends and especially for a romantic tasting dinner, each dish is an inspired fusion. The gazpacho appetizer, coconut shrimp, and ginger margarita all come highly recommended. (2645-6081)
Perched on the edge of the coral reef overlooking the beautiful coast of Cahuita, Sobre las Olas is a perfect little restaurant that has excellent food to match its ambience. The best seats are outside nestled between the palm trees, where mussels on the half shell and ceviche are fine appetizers to get you in the mood for an excellent meal. Italian owners have created a menu with the home country’s influence but focused on fresh local ingredients and expertly prepared seafood. If you haven’t happened upon it while visiting Cahuita, it’s worth asking to be pointed in the right direction and is a pleasant stroll just north of town. Bonus: There is a full bar here, too. (2755-0109)
Product C is part of a growing group of restaurants in Costa Rica that embodies the locally grown movement, serving fresh-caught seafood that spends very little time between the water and the table. What started as a beachside fish shop in the surf town of Mal Pais has blossomed into two modern concept restaurants in the capital city of San Jose, serving locally and sustainably caught seafood including four kinds of ceviche and raw warm-water oysters. The chef works with the fishermen directly, then brings his creativity to each dish, and the results are fresh, flavorful, and perhaps even unforgettable. (506 2288-5570)