The Costa Rica Restaurant Review

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.


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

Mountain Edition: The Lava Lounge Bar and Grill - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 04 March, 2011 20:59

The Lava Lounge is a bar and grill located in La Fortuna de San Carlos, near Volcan Arenal.

I was recently on an excursion to Volcan Arenal with a group of friends.  It had been several years since I had been there, and I was looking forward to getting out into the rainforest again.  My last trip had been pretty lean in terms of worthwhile dining experiences, so it was important to find the right place to eat this time.  After a long day of walking while doing the suspended bridges tour and then ziplining, the tour guide that my friends hired suggested that the Lava Lounge would be a very nice place for us to go, and besides, it was right across the street from the little motel we were staying in...

There was a decent crowd there, and the place was getting set up for some live music by a lone performer.  It is a fairly rustic decoration, but nice.  Wooden benches and tables.  But it meshes very well with the setting and decoration of the place.

The menu had several interesting options.  We got started off with drinks.  I ordered a Mai Tai, which is one of my personal favorite cocktails. It is unfortunate that I haven't found anywhere, whether it be bar or restaurant, in the city that offers Mai Tais.  The only places in Costa Rica that I have found them have been in the Arenal area, Tamarindo, and Mal Pais.  I am sure there are other places that have them, but it would be nice to find a place in the city so that I don't have to wait until I am on vacation to have one.

The food wasn't served particularly quickly, but it was ok because it was a very nice ambiance, and we had our drinks and were enjoying each others' company and were reminiscing about our day's activities.

Eventually the food came out and by the time we got started the musician started playing.  I don't know if I had consumed just as many Mai Tais  as were necessary to get the effect, or if it was the ambiance, or if he was really quite talented, but the live music was very enjoyable.  It seemed to be just the right smooth sound to set a very pleasant mood.  One of the couples with us actually got up and danced to one of the songs because it was hard to just stay in your seat (note that the place doesn't have a dance floor, you have to dance between the tables wherever there is room).

The food?

Well, as nice as the performance was, I almost forgot about it.  Until I actually started eating.   I ordered a hamburger -- which of course was made from local, grass-fed beef.  It was delivered on the rare side, which is what I had asked for, and was actually quite impressive.  It was superbly prepared, and was a large portion.  Others in the group ordered the chicken and beef fajitas, while a couple others ordered steaks that were the special for the day.  I tasted the fajitas and they were very good.  Everybody was very happy with what they received and we left nothing but clean plates.  We had 6 people in total (and 1 small child that just picked a few items from mom and dad's plate without needing a dish of his own), and the meal with the drinks was about $106.  All in all a very fair price to pay for the pleasant evening that we enjoyed.

The music was so good that we had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the table and heading back to our rooms.  Only our plans for a full day following was able to motivate us to return to our rooms and get some rest.

I would certainly return to the Lava Lounge, and would recommend it to anyone that happens to be visiting La Fortuna.


Note:  Lava Lounge is located in La Fortuna (which is a very small town, so the restaurant will be easy to find).  Call them for reservations at 2479-7365, or visit them online at
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