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Feast Upon Pure Fresh Ingredients at Costa Rica's Best Fine Dining Restaurants



Fine dining in Costa Rica has blossomed, thanks to an infux of international chefs who open restaurants and share their creations with those of us who seek them out. From restored mansions in San Jose open-air gazebos in the rainforest along the Caribbean coast, fine dining takes some unconventional forms in Costa Rica. At the inner patio of the Hotel Grano del Oro in San Jose, French cuisine is complemented by candlelight and stars in the sky. Nearby in Santa Ana, Doris Metropolitan partners with a local cattle farm that feeds its free-range cows grass and pineapples, so they live healthy and happy lives before gracing plates at this fine dining restaurant. Macchu Picchu offers authentic Peruvian food including lemon-flavored mashed potatos and has a bar serving pisco sours; find it in two locations in San Jose. In Puerto Viejo de Limon, fine dining is done in cozy, casual open-air cafes that invite a view of the rainforest while feasting on organic, farm fresh fare from the region’s melting pot of cuisines. La Pecora Nera is just hard enough to find to keep it from ever being crowded, but the Italian cuisine and candlelit ambience combine for a consummate experience.


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With a name like Chimera, one might expect an a diverse selection of food, and this Santa Elena restaurant delivers. Every plate is a creative fusion of flavors, many of which are Latin, all of which are wrought from the bounty of local ingredients that only the little enclave of Santa Elena, near the Monteverde Cloudforest, can offer. Tapas are the perfect solution for hungry travelers, and Chimera has a way with them. Perfect for sharing among a group of friends and especially for a romantic tasting dinner, each dish is an inspired fusion. The gazpacho appetizer, coconut shrimp, and ginger margarita all come highly recommended.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Casual fine dining comes to life in Chimera's tasty tapas.

Sophia's expert tip: In Greek Mythology, a Chimera is a fire-breathing female creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, comprised of sections of three different animals: a lion, a serpent and a goat.

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With such a dramatic name, one might expect something less than spectacular from Saga Restaurant, but one would be wrong- Saga consistently satisfies, with a strong menu starting with delicious sushi appetizers, ending with succulent pastries such as pecan canoli, and including top-notch entrees from an international menu like the Mediterranean Corvina. The decor is clean, fresh, and modern, and the service is impeccable- it's no wonder Saga Restaurant is a favorite go-to for Costa Ricans and tourists in the upscale neighborhood of Escaz�. A large dining room can accommodate big groups and Saga is a favorite for special occasions.

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Machu Picchu


Never tried Peruvian food? Already a fan of the South American fare? Either which way, Machhu Picchu is the place to savor succulent menu items, like the lemon-flavored mashed potatoes stuffed with shrimp and the chicken craklings, bite-sized chicken pieces served with a savory tartar sauce, The seafood platter is generous and delicious-- big enough to serve two and loaded with shrimp, squid and conch cooked multiple ways. The bar serves beer, wine, and an excellent pisco sour, a Peruvian cocktail crafted from grape liquor. Don't be dismayed by the less than dashing d�cor, it's the food here that makes it a night to remember.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Dining on fine Peruvian specialties pairs well with a Pisco sour.

Sophia's expert tip: Dare to sample the Pisco, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way.

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La Pecora Nera
Photo courtesy of Sophia LaMonica


If delicious authentic Italian cuisine served in a delightful open-air restaurant well off-the beaten track on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast sounds like your cup of tea, look no further than La Pecora Nera. The Italian chef Ilario is as charismatic as he is talented in the kitchen, and his recommendations of daily specials are always spot on, but you can't go wrong with anything on the simple yet well-rounded menu. It's romantic yet family-friendly, unpretentious yet undeniably special, and easily one of the best restaurants in Costa Rica. Ask the chef to recommend a bottle of wine to complement your meal.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Fine dining on fresh Italian cuisine in the rainforest is a decadent experience.

Sophia's expert tip: The bruschetta mixta is a perfect appetizer for two, delicate toasts topped with a variety of Italian ingredients like roasted eggplant and proscuitto crudo.

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Jungle Love Cafe is a one-of-a-kind restaurant on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. A cozy open-air gazebo surrounded by greenery between the secluded beach of Playa Chiquita and Manzanillo Gandoca Wildlife Refuge, Jungle Love serves delicious plates of food made to order with locally grown ingredients in a romantic rainforest setting. There are only a handful of tables and a few seats at the small wooden bar, but it's a relaxed place to linger over dinner and dessert. Jungle Love Cafe is family owned and has an intimate feel that makes one feel at home, even five kilometers south of Puerto Viejo de Limon.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This open-air gazebo on the edge of the jungle ranks high in romance, with delicious food and great music.

Sophia's expert tip: Take home a jar of the Jungle Love Cafe's "Slow Death" homemade pepper sauce for the spice lover back home.

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Bacchus


Linen draped tables greet diners at this intimate dining room that offers only the finest Italian and French cuisine. Pastas, antipasti, pizzas and entrees such as duck breast delicately topped in port sauce are favorites, as are the focaccia and Eggplant Parmesan. Seafood lovers will appreciate the risotto frutti di mare and the duck agnolotti comes highly recommended by bird eaters. The wine list carefully selected, and every bottle complements the cuisine. Outdoor tables make the ideal spot for celebrating a special occasion. The building that Bacchus is housed in is over 100 years old yet has been meticulously refurbished.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Italian + French cuisine served in a refurbished space fit for royalty is dining at its finest.

Sophia's expert tip: A bottle of Chianti complements the antipasto platter quite nicely.

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For the well-heeled and epicurious, Le Monast�re delivers and then some. Everything is prepared and served expertly, from escargot and French Onion Soup to chef specials like Venison Tenderloin Flambee in Port Wine and Seabass filet in Tarragon Cream Sauce. The menu is extensive and impressive and is enhanced by daily specials and always includes fresh local produce from some of Costa Rica's best farms and gardens; choose from a wine list 300 bottles long. Even the desserts are too decadent to deny; Oraange Souffl� Cointreau and Cr�me Br�l�e are just the beginning. And as if the food weren't enough, the ambiance at Le Monast�re is an unparalleled experience: take in a nearly 360 degree from above the city from a historic former monastery decorated in traditional European style down to marble statues, authentic antiques live classical music played on an opulent grand piano.

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Airport - Sjo

Those with a hankering for high-quality meat should look no further than Doris Metropolitan, a stand-out, and stand alone- restaurant in San Jose, Costa Rica- although there is now a Doris Metropolitan stateside, too. Embracing the locally-grown movement wholeheartedly, Doris Metropolitan partners with a cattle farm in southern Costa Rica to specially raise cow that are fed not only grass but pineapple, which gives it a uniquely marbled texture and distinct flavor; both of which tend to be lacking in much of Costa Rica's beef. Specialties include meat cured all-naturally in a process known as French Dry Aged and Chateaubriand Tenderloin.

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La Casona del Cafetal is a restaurant and event destination located amidst a sprawling coffee farm, offering excellent cuisine and sweeping views of its lushly planted grounds, complete with a glistening lake, Lago de Cachi. The ambience alone makes La Casona del Cafetal an ideal choice for romantic dinners and special occasions, especially weddings and anniversaries because of its romantic setting, and since it can accommodate up to 300 guests at once, it is often booked in advance. For the casual diner, however, there is a bright and airy dining room and chef-served buffet tables heaped high with international cuisine cooked to perfection.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Reserve La Casona for a special event and enjoy fine dining overlooking the lake.

Sophia's expert tip: Stroll the trails that lead down to the lake side before or after your meal.

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Grano de Oro Restaurant


What started as a simple hotel caf-- has expanded to become one of the country's finest restaurants with well-earned reputation. Casually elegant, this restaurant is situated off the Grano de Oro Hotel's central courtyard which provides for pleasant seating options on cooperative days. A Frech chef is behind the European menu has Costa Rican influences and changes regularly, featuring seafood, beef, chicken and vegetable offerings. If it's available on your visit, try the macadamia-encrusted covina or the Gorgonzola-stuffed filet mignon, but truly whatever you choose will shine. And most certainly make room for dessert as the offerings here are scrumptious.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: A stellar French chef lends distinctive flavors to the dishes at this fine hotel restaurant.

Sophia's expert tip: Save room for dessert, there's something sweet for everyone here.

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Meet Sophia LaMonica

On Sophia's first trip to Costa Rica, she came face to face with white-faced monkeys, gasped at the sight of giant purple crabs, and rode horseback through plunging waterfalls. Costa Rica...  More About Sophia

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