San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hold the Entrée: Ginger Makes Meals of Appetizers

PLAYA HERMOSA— Ever wish you could order an appetizer and dessert, but not sure you could eat it all on top of an entrée? Restaurant Ginger offers a solution – it has cut out the entrée.

In Playa Hermosa in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, the restaurant offers a selection of tasty appetizers and desserts for customers to share, eat and enjoy.

Originally from Canada, owners Ann Hegney Frey and her husband, Bengt Frey, moved to Costa Rica four years ago to retire. However, in 2002 they found themselves ready to try something new. Before retiring, Ann had been a Cordon Bleu chef who studied in France. Plans for a restaurant began to take shape, and Ginger opened last December.

In planning the restaurant, the couple looked at what they liked about other places.

“The appetizers are often the most interesting part of the menu,” says Bengt. “So we thought, ‘Why not just have appetizers?’ People can come, order a few and share.”

According to my server, two or three dishes constitute a meal, with diners generally selecting several for the table and sharing.

ON my server’s recommendation, I ordered the Dips Ginger, traditional hummus and a creamy red-pepper-and-garlic dip served with crunchy pita slices(¢1,100/ $2.60), and the warm spinach salad (ordered without pancetta for vegetarian tastes) with caramelized onions and mushrooms, in an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing tossed with warmed, but not cooked, spinach served sprinkled with smoked cheese (¢2,200/ $5.20).

A diner at the table next to mine, who identified himself as a regular, highly endorsed the spiced beef skewers – grilled tenderloin brushed with oyster sauce (¢2,000/$4.75)– and the fresh-baked focaccia bread (¢700/$1.65).

According to Ann, the fish tacos (¢2,500/$5.95) are one of the most popular dishes, although she points out that “taco” is somewhat of a misnomer. The dish consists of seared tuna served on a crispy tortilla with pickled ginger, fruit salsa and citrus mayonnaise.

ANN says she’s noticed that Costa Ricans tend to choose the Mediterranean dishes while North Americans seem to favor the Asian-influenced appetizers.

Once you have finished your appetizers, it’s time to move on to dessert, which Bengt says is the highlight of the menu. I went with the chocolate banana tart (¢2,000/ $4.75), which was delicious.

Served on a macadamia crust with chocolate truffle cream and custard and topped with fresh bananas, the dessert was rich but not overwhelming.

The restaurant has a great atmosphere, with dark wood furniture and vivid saffron and red tablecloths and chair upholstery.

Guests have the option of indoor or outdoor seating. On windy nights, diners may find it best to opt for indoors. Inside, the small bar offers nine different martinis, and has a considerable liquor list. The quick and friendly service makes the experience at Ginger even more enjoyable.

GINGER is 150 meters south of the entrance to Hotel Condovac La Costa and is open Tuesday through Sunday 5–10 p.m. For more info, call 672-0041.


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