San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Restaurant Nare has a Flair for Japanese Cuisine

NARE means“hope” and maybe,with a name that’sfull of aspirations,Restaurant Nare willsurvive in what mustbe one of the mostdelightful spots in thewestern suburb ofEscazú, southwest ofSan José.Those versed inthe profusion of diningoptions in thearea, (160, I’ve been told!), are probablyaware that Nare’s location, uphill betweenSan Rafael de Escazú and the old town center,appears to have been cursed by the infamouswitches of the area. Survival forMexican, a steak house and Spanish establishmentshave been short-lived.Now Nare offers Korean barbecue, asushi bar, teppan-yaki, plus a cozy bar withKaraoke on weekends, all in a perfectlyenchanting setting. Tables are placed outdoorsin the lovely garden and patrons candine to the soothing gurgle of the river runningby the property.A winding path through this green oasisleads to a rancho-style teppan-yaki bar, anideal setting to enjoy this popular Japanesecuisine. Attractive spacious rooms offerindoor dining. The evening two friends and Ivisited Nare, we chose a table on the terraceoverlooking the garden.THE extensive menu comprises a completearray of Japanese specialties: sushi,sashimi, tempura dishes and more. Friendswho engage in surveillance for me (I can’teat everything, everywhere!) have reportedthat it’s very good indeed and prices arecomparable to other Japanese restaurants.However, that evening we were there topartake in the Korean cuisine and somewhatperplexed we gazed at the menu. Eventuallywe made our choice encouraged by our helpfulwaiter, who continued to give us goodservice throughout the meal.Bowls of complimentary miso souparrived accompanied by medallions ofbreaded squid. As we waited for our orderwe commented that virtually all the otherdiners were Korean. A good sign indeed!Our appetizers, sikumchi-namal spinachand hobak-namal squash, were served with adressing of toasted crushed sesame seeds, anessential item of Korean seasoning. Bothwere very tasty and priced at ¢850 ($2).NO Korean meal is complete withoutKim Chi – pickled Chinese cabbage thatcomes in as many versions as there arecooks. Our order resembled cabbage rolls,not the more finely chopped cabbage I’dexpected. I must admit it didn’t come up tothe Kim Chi made by a Korean friend.The waiter recommended the steamedcorvina, in a spicy Korean sauce ¢3,445($8), which proved to be slightly on thesweet side and not pungent enough for mytaste buds. However, the lightly steamed fishand crunchy mixed vegetables were delicious.The portion was so ample I requesteda “kitty bag” and enjoyed it for supper thenext night.The grilled pork ribs ¢4,675 ($11), wereexcellent and the pile of bare bones left onthe plate certainly confirmed this.The other item, bi bim bak ¢3,125 ($7),was listed as a house specialty and orderedby my adventurous friend. She didn’t knowwhat she was ordering, but always likes tobe helpful and try something different.Surprise! Surprise! It arrived in a largebowl overflowing with a mound of rice anda very lightly fried egg on the top. As sheplowed through an assortment of vegetableslooking for the meat she commented, “Idon’t think I’ll order this again!”THE dessert menu is undeniably internationaland includes chocolate mousse,tiramisu and tres leches, a Costa Ricanfavorite. Having had more than an elegantsufficiency, we passed on these and chatteredto the gracious Korean owner, Keun Lee.After only two months of being in business,he’s more than hopeful of Nare’s success.Lee’s wife Kim cooks, while he keepsan eagle eye on what’s happening in therestaurant.“I’m aware of the importance of anowner’s presence,” he said. “ I had one inSeoul for 17 years.”He misunderstood when I asked him ifthe complimentary offerings at the beginningof the meal were the norm.“Oh! Yes,” he replied and in a flash tomy chagrin, another large bowl of souparrived. I refused politely, but it was waitingfor me with my “kitty bag.” The next day Ienjoyed a bowl of delicious very spicy tofusoup.I hope Lee has more success with hisrestaurant, than his predecessors did in thislocation. He certainly deserves to.NARE has ample parking next door andis located 600 meters south of El Cruce inSan Rafael de Escazú. It is open daily fromnoon-3 p.m. and 6-11 p.m. For more info,call 288-0793.

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