The Costa Rica Restaurant Review

Sale e Pepe - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 17 April, 2011 20:02

Sale e Pepe (Italian for Salt and Pepper) is an Italian restaurant located in San Rafael de Escazú.
 
I had been to Sale e Pepe before a number of years ago for lunch with a friend of mine (if my memory serves me, I had a seafood pizza the last time I went). The restaurant was much as I remembered it.  Simply but tastefully decorated, and moderately busy, but not crowded. This most recent visit was with a much larger group (6 adults and a child).  We were arriving late from out of town, and rather than cook for a large hungry group of people, we opted for an Italian excursion to Sale e Pepe. 

Upon arrival we made our way to the second floor and sat down.  We were attended quickly and courteously and placed our orders.  As I frequently do when I eat at an Italian restaurant, I ordered a calzone, in this case with ham and cheese.  Others in the group ordered various pastas and pizzas, and we asked for a half-liter of house wine.  While the food was not brought to the table exceedingly quickly, it was brought within a reasnable amount of time -- except for mine.  I sat and enjoyed some of the wine while waiting for my dish and watching everyone else eat.  Everyone was very satisfied with their order, and the wine was very nice for a reasonably priced house wine.  In the meantime we asked the waiter several times what was going on with my order and we were told that it was taking the chef some extra time to prepare, but that it would be out shortly.  Well it wasn't out shortly.  By the time it was brought to the table everyone else was already FINISHED eating.  In any case, my calzone was finally served hot and since by that time I was rather hungry and had built up an appetite watching everyone else eat, I made short order of it.  The others didn't have to wait too long for me to finish.

I had no complaint about my order other than the inordinate amount of time it took to bring it out.  While, again, everyone was very happy with both the quality and quantity of the food, and with the reasonable price tag of about $110 when all was said and done, it must be said that letting one person out of a group sit there while others are served is really not an acceptable practice in the service industry.  I don't let things like that irritate me, but others might (especially if it were a business dinner, for example).  The restaurant could have handled this in a much preferable way:  instead of allowing me to sit there with nothing on the table in front of me, they could have brought out an appetizer (on the house), or they could have just said after passing the order to the chef that my order would take a while to prepare and thus given me the option of choosing something else.  I probably would have opted to wait (as I said, waiting doesn't irritate me -- I would have preferred to wait and get what I wanted), but it still would have been more proper to at least have the option.

All this said, I think it is somewhat likely that my case was more of an anomaly than the norm.  I have seen many restaurants come and go over the years, but Sale e Pepe has survived, which I deem to be a good sign overall.  They can't be upsetting too many people.   

There are a number of upper scale Italian restaurants available to choose from in Escazú and the western suburbs of San José.  Sale e Pepe is probably among the more reasonably priced options, and quality is not sacrificed (even my long wait is a good indication that the food is prepared from scratch and not just thrown together out of a package or a can).  I have eaten at much more expensive Italian restaurants here in Escazú, and while the service was wonderful, the food left something to be desired. Without a doubt I would rather complain about a long wait, than complain about a high price tag for sub par food. Still, it would be better to have no complaint at all. 
 
M.C.

Note:  Sale e Pepe is located in San Rafael de Escazú, right next to (and slightly behind) the Pops Ice Cream shop.  Call them at 2289-5750, to make reservations.

Beach Edition: Hotel Vista de Olas - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 13 March, 2011 12:15

The open air BBQ-style restaurant at Hotel Vista de Olas is situated next to the hotel's infinity pool.  The hotel is at the top of a hill that is accessed only via a fairly rough dirt road.  Being up on the hill allows for a beatuiful view of the ocean below, and the restaurant has become somewhat of an area hot-spot for having dinner at sunset.  However ambience is very nice at any time, so dinner after dark is also very enjoyable, though visitors showing up after the sunset rush run the risk of a more limited selection of meats because they can easily run out of any particular item during what is their busiest time.

If you plan to enjoy your dinner at sunset, a reservation is recommended, at least during high season.

The dining model at the restaurant is an interesting one.  You order your meat (choose between t-bone steak, rib-eye, filet mignon, baby back ribs, bratwurst, tuna steaks, etc.) which is brought to you on a platter -- uncooked.  You take turns with the other customers at the grill and barbecue it yourself according to your personal preference.  Along with the meat you get an all-you-can-eat salad bar, and all-you-can-eat baked potatoes.  For those that aren't interested in the meat, you are also able to order just the salad bar/potatoes.

If the restaurant is particularly busy, there may be a slight wait because you have to wait for the people ahead of you to finish with the grill.  But that whole process doesn't take too long, at least for most people, and they do have a variety of nice cocktails to choose from while you are waiting.  I ordered a pina colada which was made with fresh pineapple and fresh coconut.  You don't find that very frequently, even in the beach areas.  I had small chunks of fresh fruit and coconut at the bottom of my glass when I got towards the end of my drink.  It was very nice.  My only complaint about the drinks was that I couldn't get a Mai Tai...

For meat, among the various people that constituted our party, two ordered the t-bone steak, two ordered rib-eye steaks, and two ordered baby back ribs.  The cuts of meat were well proportioned.  The t-bone was the most expensive cut, but was one of the largest steaks I have ever seen in my life.  Mine was one of the orders of ribs, since that is probably my favorite meat to barbecue, and it turned out deliciously, as ribs usually do.  And since I was manning the grill for purposes of cooking the two rib orders, they were sure not to get overdone.

As is my custom when eating at an all-you-can-eat arrangement, I ate my fill and then some.  A pina colada, an order of ribs, several helpings of various styles of salad, and several baked potatoes with lots of butter and sour cream after sitting down to eat, I felt like my own ribs would bust from the effort of holding my abdomen within a confined space.  

I don't know what the final tally was, because I didn't pay the bill.  It wasn't exactly cheap, but grilling the meat yourself does save them the labor cost of having a chef do it for you, so it really isn't as expensive as you might pay for the same cuts at an ordinary restaurant, and the all-you-can-eat aspect ensures that you will leave well filled. I would definitely eat here again... bring your appetite.

M.C.

Note:  Vista de Olas is located in Mal Pais on the Nicoya Peninsula.  Call them for specific directions and/or reservations at 2640-0183, or visit them online at www.vistadeolas.com
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