TBT – Do You Know the Way to San Jose? Fine Dining in Costa Rica That Is!!

Our TBT adventure this week brings us back to Costa Rica.  We had been living there for about 5 months and our 3rd wedding anniversary was quickly approaching.  My lips are smacking just thinking about it.  Bon Appetit!!

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I think I made a mistake in a prior blog entry where I said that we always seem to be on a quest here in Costa Rica for steak. I realize now that it isn’t just steak. We are always on the prowl for food . . . not just any food, but DELICIOUS food!!

Octopus Pekka

Doesn’t matter if we are in Costa Rica, NYC or Europe. We are definitely people who live to eat. In the midst of one meal, we are usually busily planning our next. Did you ever notice that when we discuss our vacations and exotic destinations, it always comes down to what we ate?? Venetian Liver in Venice, Pasta and Truffles in Tuscany, Rendang in Bali, Octopus Pekka in Croatia, Schmaltz in Poland, Mititei in Romania . . .well, you get the gist.

No wonder I have been such a frequent member of Weight Watchers over the years.

Pollo Encebollado (Chicken and fried onions)
Pollo Encebollado (Chicken and fried onions)

When we first came to Costa Rica we figured we might have to slum it a bit when it came to exquisite fine dining. Not that we don’t love the food here in CR, because we do. We just love the bistek or pollo encebellado, chuleta ahumada, corvina al ajillo (steak/chicken and onions, smoked pork chops and sea bass drowning in garlic) just to name a few.

When we started to plan our 3-year anniversary dinner (as we celebrate everything with food!!), we realized that when it comes to true fine dining . . . with amazing wine and all, our options here in Atenas were rather limited. We decided to ask our neighbor Emilio, a Tico with a taste for good food and fine wine, for some recommendations. The first name off his lips was Le Chandelier. A French restaurant in Los Yoses, a suburb of San Jose. He said it was pricey but it was definitely worth it.

Since we had every intention of drinking amazing wine (and the fact that our car was in the shop) we made arrangements for a taxi to take us to and from the restaurant. Our reservation was for 7:00 and since we had to drive all the way through and to the other end of San Jose, we were picked up at 5:30. We figured we would be early and get a cocktail at the bar. Thank goodness we left when we did. Who knew about the insane rush-hour traffic in San Jose?? We arrived about 5 minutes late.

Pate Amuse Bouche

We were ushered to a private room with a table for two with flowers and candles. I guess I might have let it slip when I made the reservation that it was our anniversary ;-). We were promptly given the wine list and while perusing the list, we were brought an Amuse Bouche from the chef of homemade pate . . . delish!!

La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Reserve 1996

We decided on a bottle of La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Reserve 1996.

Following our amuse bouche was Iberian Ham and melon for Mike and I had an amazing hearts of palm salad. There was so much to chose from on the menu . . . but I knew I had to get something I hadn’t seen anywhere else in Costa Rica (and our first trip back to NYC was still 2 weeks away).

The service was spaced out which gave us time to enjoy our dishes and digest before receiving the next. And as the bald chick said, “Oops, we did it again . . . ” , we ordered a second bottle of the Vina Arana Reserve 1996. [ED NOTE: This was March 2007 and Britney Spears had recently shaved her head.]

New Zealand Lamb
New Zealand Lamb

After much debate, I decided on the New Zealand lamb (which was grilled to perfection) and Mike had a mixed grill which consisted of filet, lamb, sausage, veal, pork and chicken. Each dish was accompanied by two sauces, although Mike and I both agreed that the chimichurri sauce that came with his was by far the best on the table, and to be honest, the best chimichurri we have ever tasted.

To compliment the entrees, each dish came with a tower of vegetables . . . a fried potato pancake topped with a stuffed zucchini which was covered with melted cheese which was then topped by a fried plantain. As I was so eager to dig in, I forgot to snap a picture.

Apple Tart
Apple Tart

As I don’t usually have the sweet tooth in this relationship, I am not one to order dessert but on special occasions I am known to say, “Oh, what the hell.”  I ordered the apple tart (one of my all time favorite desserts).  I was by no means disappointed as it was delicious, but it was large enough to eat alone for dinner. There was no way I could finish it. Mike ordered the panna cotta and as full as he was, polished off every last bite, and drowned it with some cafe negro.

I won’t give any detail on price, but I will say that it was worth every last colones!!

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