The Costa Rica Restaurant Review

Cafe de Artistas - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 13 July, 2010 22:38

Café de Artistas is a nice little café style, artsy restaurant located in San Rafael de Escazú.
 
I have been to Café de Artistas many times over the years since I have lived in Costa Rica.  However, prior to going today it had been about 3 or 4 years since my last visit.  Since that time, the previous owner had sold the business to someone else, so it now has "new" management, though I did recognize the waiter that attended me as having worked there for the prior owner.
 
As more of a café than a restaurant, they do most of their business in the morning, with the majority of the items on their menu being breakfast dishes.  Their lunch menu is much smaller -- consisting mainly of sandwiches (they have a selection of 8 or so different possibilities to choose from).  They do not serve dinner. 
 
Under the previous owner they used to have a daily special, usually a meat or a fish of some sort, with a vegetable on the side.  That seems to have been discontinued, or perhaps they offer a special on weekends.  I neglected to ask.
 
This particular foray was for purposes of a business lunch meeting with a long-time associate that I bumped into several days ago after not having seen him for a few years.  Evidently he is a regular customer.  Per the suggestion of the waiter, he ordered the barbecued beef sandwich, which, when it arrived, looked delightful.  I ordered the French dip Roast Beef sandwich, which was also impressive, nicely presented, and tasted fabulous.  I believe the sauce was rosemary.  Very well prepared, and fresh.  All of the sandwiches that they serve come with a side dish of french fries, pasta salad, potato salad, or fruit salad.  I had the potato salad, which was not great, but respectable.  We finished off our meal with a cup of coffee. All in all, a success...  The downside?  They do not have a liquor license, so no beer with your lunch.  The previous owner would slip you a beer under the table if it was obvious that you weren't an investigator or someone who would likely turn him in to the local authorities.  Evidently the new guy wants to do things a little more by the book.  Fair enough.
 
The ambience in Café de Artistas is very agreeable.  Not luxurious, but nice.  Service is good, albeit fairly slow.  I think there was one other person there at the same time as us, but it seemed like it took them quite some time to bring our food after we ordered.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, because it is a nice atmosphere in which to relax, and moreso if you have someone with you with whom to share a good conversation.  And perhaps it takes time for the food to be prepared carefully, up to the standards that they wish to provide.  Nevertheless, if the place was unduly crowded, I think the wait to receive one's order might become a bit of a bottleneck.
 
The price was reasonable for the amount, and certainly the quality, of food received.  Figure on a price of about $8 to $10 for a well-prepared sandwich, side order, and a cup of coffee.
 
At minimum, worth a visit and possibly worthy of being a semi-regular place to do lunch. 
 
M.C.

Note:  Café de Artistas is located in San Rafael de Escazú, about 100 meters south of Plaza Rolex (the shopping center where Citibank is located). Call them for reservations at 2288-5082, or visit them online at www.cafe-de-artistas.com

Beach Edition: Kaite Blanco - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 08 February, 2010 00:32

Kaite Blanco is a bar and sea food restaurant located in Puntarenas centro.

I was in Puntarenas on a day trip, and my attorney had suggested that Kaite Blanco was a good place to go to eat chuchecas, which is a black shellfish eaten fresh out of the shell, much like an oyster.  We asked around downtown for directions, which we received along with recommendations from residents and visitors regarding other restaurants in the area, but in the end I decided to take my attorney's suggestion.
 
From the outside Kaite Blanco appears to be little more than an old village bar, and indeed upon first entry that perception is reinforced.  However, if you are looking for the restaurant it is all the way in the back where there are a number of tables.  There were a few people sitting and drinking in the bar area, but the restaurant was completely empty other than the group that I was with.
 
The view from the restaurant could be rather quaint, but it isn't.  The area looks out over a little beach (for lack of a better word).  It isn't really a beach -- it is more like an area where the ocean meets the land.  There is no sand, just a lot of mud.  There are a few old boats, a couple of them broken down and rusted up on the shore, and another tied up but apparently doing not much more than rotting, tied to a post in the water.  The old broken boats didn't bother me -- I'm sure with the right presentation they could actually be quite charming.  But in addition to all of this there was a lot of trash and a variety of junk strewn about, which made the whole scene unattractive.  There were plenty of seagulls around, and even pelicans out sitting on the boat that was tied up -- nothing wrong with that.  Among the trash, though, there was a plastic bag full of something that had been thrown out there, which had attracted a flock of vultures.  Now I realize that vultures provide a quite necessary function in the planet's ecosystem, but they are ugly creatures and certainly do not provide for a charming dining environment.  In short, while having potential, the place really needs to be cleaned up to make it an attraction.
 
Of course, I wasn't too concerned.  I would happily overlook the trash and the vultures if the food was impressive.
 
Unfortunately, when I looked at the menu, there were only two dishes that offered chuchecas (neither of them being the fresh, in the shell preparation that I was looking for) -- ceviche, and chuchecas with rice.  We asked the owner about this and he said that he used to keep the live chuchecas outside in a pond.  However, due to the conditions out there and the risk of bacteria, etc. he could no longer do so and thus was no longer offering the dish due to the health risk.  He said that he lost substantial business for making that decision because there were people that liked to go to his restaurant to eat that dish, but he just couldn't maintain a proper environment for the live shellfish.
 
I was very disappointed that I could not get the fresh chuchecas, but I went for the next best thing, that being the chucheca ceviche.  It was enjoyable -- the chuchecas seemed quite fresh, and the ceviche was well prepared.  Others in my group ordered sea bass filets cooked in garlic, whole sea bass, and chicken with rice.  My ceviche dish wasn't large, but ceviche is often served in very small servings, so I considered the dish to be of reasonable size.  The other dishes were all served in healthy portions.  I sampled a number of them and all of those that I tried were well prepared.  In my opinion prices were a little more than they should have been, but in perspective they weren't all that high considering that we are talking about seafood.
 
Perhaps the prices were comparable to what one might pay for similar dishes at the Princessa Marina.  That isn't a bad thing, since, in my review of that restaurant elsewhere on this site, I have remarked that the Princessa Marina offers great value for seafood.  However, the Princessa Marina is also in the metro area and Kaite Blanco is at the beach, literally on the water.  As a result, Kaite Blanco loses points because it has to be held to a higher standard due to its proximity to the ocean.
 
All in all, my visit to this restaurant was not unpleasant, but I would certainly be in no hurry to return to eat here a second time.  If you are looking for food in Puntarenas, my recommendation is to try other restaurants in the area before eating at Kaite Blanco.
 
M.C.
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