The Costa Rica Restaurant Review

Lubnan - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 21 November, 2009 18:43

Lubnan is a Lebanese restaurant located on Paseo Colon in San José.

I have eaten at Lubnan on multiple occasions, and have quite enjoyed it every time.  Most recently I went for a business dinner on a Friday night.  The place was not full, so did not require any reservation in advance, but it certainly had a respectable showing of people.  Nevertheless, the service was fast.  Waiters approached the table almost as soon as we were seated to bring menus and ask what we wanted to drink.  It was only minutes after bringing the drinks that they asked if we were ready to order.

We started with a lettuce and cucumber salad appetizer, which included delicious pieces of grilled chicken and toasted pieces of pita bread for crutons.  The name of the salad was "katush".  They used a simple oil-based dressing for this, but it has a mixture of spices in it that is quite nice.  One order was easily sufficient for two people
 
As soon as we finished our salad, our main dishes were served immediately.
 
My companion had lamb kebobs that looked nothing short of stunning.  The pieces of grilled lamb are served on skewers and come with a dish of hummus (which is a popular middle eastern garbanzo bean spread), and nicely grilled potato wedges.  I am sure that I have ordered this same dish on a previous occasion at this restaurant and knew it was a good choice, but it looked even better than I remembered.
 
I went for something a little more risque, and had the raw meat served with onion and parsley.  The presentation wasn't quite as nice as with the lamb kebobs.  On the plate is a big red disc of meat, with a sprig of green leaves in the center (not parsley).  There is a bowl on the side with a mixture of tomato and parsley, and a couple of onions cut in quarters.
 
A basket of pita bread was provided with the meal, along with a flask of olive oil, a small bowl of extremely hot pepper sauce, and another small bowl of a whipped garlic cream.
 
I placed a piece of my raw meat disc in a piece of pita bread, spooned in some of the tomato parsley mixture, added a healthy dollup of hot pepper sauce, smeared some garlic cream on it all, and dove in.  Ouch!  Good, but a bit too spicy, enough to burn the roof of my mouth.   I continued with similar combinations but with a new found respect for the strength of their pepper sauce, went a little easier on the spice in further helpings.
 
What my dish lacked in presentation, it certainly made up for in enjoyability.  The flavor was good, it had an exotic factor to it, and it was also actually fun food to eat.  I finished every crumb of what was brought to me... except for the onions.  Had they been diced up, I would have included them in my pita sandwiches, but since I wasn't going to put a quarter onion in each sandwich and couldn't be bothered to try to cut them up with a table knife, they were left behind.  What a shame...  Looking back I should have just broken up the onion sections with my hands, but for some reason that did not occur to me at the time.
 
I felt the quantity of food received was good.  I could have probably eaten more, but I was satisfied.  My companion actually did not quite finish his lamb, so evidently the serving size was more than large enough for him.   What can I say?  I like to eat and you will never hear me complain of serving sizes being too large at any restaurant I review -- of that I can assure you.
 
All told, including 2 drinks, an appetizer, and 2 main dishes, the total tab came to $40.  This is where their service staff finally slowed down -- it took them a while to actually bring us our check after being asked for it.  Fortunately, that is only a very small flaw.

If you're in the mood for something different, or if you are familiar with and enjoy Lebanese food, or even if you're just looking for a good place to eat lamb (which can be a tad bit difficult to find at restaurants in Costa Rica) give Lubnan a try.  I think you will be pleasanly surprised with both the quality of the food as well as the attentiveness of the service.

M.C.

Note:  Lubnan is located on Paseo Colon in San José, a few blocks west of San Juan de Dios Hospital.  Call them for reservations at 2257-6071.

Restaurante Del Mar - Restaurant Review

mnsrconnoisseur | 17 September, 2009 11:01

The Del Mar Restaurant is located in the Hotel Del Rey (and Casino) in downtown San Jose, in the same area as the Horeshoe Casino, Club ColoniaI Casino, etc.  The menu sports primarily American Cuisine.

The restaurant adjoins the casino area of the hotel, but in addition, the Hotel Del Rey is a very well known congregating point for hookers in the San Jose area.  The girls parade up and down especially in the bar areas, advertising their "wares".  If you are offended by that type of thing, then this restaurant is best avoided.  In any case, it is certainly not a family style restaurant, nor a place that one would enjoy a romantic evening with one's partner.

The service at the restaurant varies based on when you go and whom the attending staff are.    Overall they take fairly good care of you, but they are not overly attentive.  If you need something you will likely have to call someone over as they do not visit your table to check if everything is ok.  Even on the businest of nights you should have no trouble finding a seat.  Most of the activity is at the bars and in the casino.  As a result, the place is also fairly loud.  There are usually televisons on, usually airing sporting events.

During my most recent excursion to this restaurant (for lunch), I orded a cheeseburger.  As is my custom, I asked for it to be as rare as possible.  As I frequently am when I order a burger, I was disappointed.  It was not overly well done, but it was not nearly as rare as I prefer.  I guess people just don't get it when I tell them that I want the meat all but still breathing.  Other than that, it was decent.  It came with the works and had french fries on the side.  At about 5000 colones after tax, it is probably on the expensive side, considering the quality.  For a burger you will do better at California Western, reviewed elsewhere in this blog.  Fortunately the meal was comped, as I was there playing poker.

While my review of this particular meal may seem negative, I don't want to convey that one can't eat well here.  Years ago a friend of mine treated me to a Marlin dinner at this restaurant and it was spectacular.  I don't know if it is still on the menu, nor what the preparation would be like these days, but it would be worth another try if they still serve it.  Also they make a mean philly chease steak sandwich, made even better if you ask for extra onions.  It is also served with fries on the side and costs about 5000 colones after tax.  I would consider it a much better bet than their hamburger.

I will wrap up this review with one small tip.  If you are passing through and decide to try out this restaurant, first cross the street over to the Key Largo and check the menu of the restaurant there.  The Key Largo has the same owners and management as the Del Mar Restaurant, but the restaurant there is a little more classy and is certainly quieter.  Last time I ate there they had exactly the same menu as the Del Mar Restaurant, the food had identical preparation, but the price was significantly less.  It is worth checking this, and certainly worth crossing the street to save a little bit of money, especially given the more comfortable and quieter dining area.

M.C.

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