Costa Rican Cuisine with a Modern Touch
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Year-long growing seasons + fertile land + oceans, lakes and rivers = Culinary Paradise. Costa Rica’s lush natural resources are awe-inspiring for travellers, but they are much more than a pretty backdrop. All year-long they provide a rich variety of fruits and vegetables, not to mention the world’s finest tasting coffee and cacao. And with two oceans and lots of fresh water, there are fantastic fresh fish and seafood options. In this culinary paradise, it is no surprise that Costa Rica’s chefs are turning heads with their contemporary takes on classic traditional dishes featuring all of these amazing local ingredients.
Local ingredients and traditional dishes with a modern technique
One example of contemporary Tico cuisine can be found at Luna Roja (Red Moon) in the Barrio Escalante neighbourhood. When owner Silvia Rodríguez opened the restaurant, she was inspired by her country’s history and the traditional recipes associated with Costa Rican culture. She found a kindred spirit in Chef Pablo Vásquez and they decided to develop a menu that celebrates Costa Rican culinary identity.
Luna Roja offers a menu of lunar phases, divided in crescent moons (starters), full moons (main dishes), waning moons (appetizers), and honeymoons (desserts).
Everything is prepared with local, mostly organic and natural ingredients. The textures and flavours are drawn from Costa Rica’s indigenous population - the Boruca, the Maleku and other ethnic groups - to create modern gastronomical experiences. Even classics like the filling and delicious sopa negra (black bean soup) have been re-invented and presented more like food-art than the version at our grandmother’s house.
Another great example of modern Costa Rican cuisine is Chef Jose Pablo Gonzalez’s Al Mercat. Named after the tales of Tico author Aquileo J. Echeverria, "Al Mercado” refers to the culture and traditional Costa Rican lifestyle of going to farmer’s markets, buying and preparing what is fresh and local. Indeed, everything you eat at Al Mercat has been inspired by traditional meals and reinterpreted with fresh produce selected from the chef’s own farm and local markets.
When your meals arrive to the table, it is impossible to miss the fact that the chef studied at Le Cordón Bleu in Paris, the modern techniques and plate presentation are decidedly contemporary, while the tastes and ingredients remain true to Costa Rican culture. The tuna and mango ceviche is a citrusy, mouth-watering ocean-to-table experience and the chorizo salad served on thin soft wheat wafers accompanied with grilled avocado and palm heart is Michelin-star worthy.
Foodie revolution celebrating Costa Rican Cuisine
Young creative and innovative chefs at other restaurants like Kula (Nicole Aguilar), Tournant (Ximena Vicente and Greivin Rojas), 11.47 Aranjuez (Fabián Romero and Jose Chaves) and Sikwa (Pablo Bonilla - Costa Rican ancestral food) are also part of the foodie revolution celebrating Costa Rican cuisine with exquisite dishes, all of them are promoting the local fresh products from farmers markets or even their own finca (farm). There are plenty of options: slow food, traditional cuisine, signature-dishes, local modern cuisine, fusion or fine dining contemporary creations!
Start making reservations and you will discover that these chefs are not just serving meals, but they are creating culinary experiences that will last in your memories.
To learn more about the wave of modern takes on Costa Rican classics, join one of our Food Tours in San Jose, Costa Rica for an authentic culinary experience. You will find the key dishes you must taste at each of these restaurants in San Jose while you walk through historic and trendy neighborhoods and learn about local lifestyle and culture!
If you are passionate about slow food and sustainable tourism, don't miss Hannah, Kasi and Simone experience during their Costa Rican culinary vacation in rural communities.