San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Escazú Nightspot’s Music Worth Pricey Menu

COSMOPOLITAN Escazúattracts fun-loving night owls whoswoop down on this western suburbof San José. Trendy restaurants,sports bars and discos overflow untilthe wee small hours of the morning,especially on weekends.Among this milieu there’s musicin the air at “Balcony Jazz Club &Café,” where the sounds of jazz,fusion Caribe, hot Latin jam, tunes ofthe 70s and 80s or soothing pianomusic alternate from night to night.When you choose to visit thisclassy addition to Escazú’s nightlifescene, depends entirely on your musical preference.Having heard the brilliant talent of singer Fuzzy Rojas,who performs Thursday and Friday nights, is a “musthear,” I invited three friends, well versed in music to joinme.We were not disappointed. Around 9 p.m. Rojas joinedher four-piece band; comprising keyboard, trumpet, guitarand drum players, who had been serenading us at a verypleasing level with some real cool jazz. As soon as she startedto sing, the team was totally transfixed.Her husky voice rendition of “Fever” rekindled memoriesof Peggy Lee, while other intense, moving and sensualnumbers among them, “Just the Two of Us,” “I Don’t GetAround Much Anymore” and “Mr. Saturday Night,” kept ushanging on the words of this songbird. Rojas, who hails fromPhiladelphia, Penn., is an enchanting vocalist. She and herband should not be missed.WE were impressed by the sophisticated elegance of thesurroundings. An imposing ornate gilt mirror was a perfectbackdrop to the small stage. Highlighting the black walledinterior, an impressive chandelier, flickering candlelight andtiny Tiffany-style lamps all added to the nightclub atmosphere.You can choose to sit at a formally set table or relax incomfy sofas and lounge chairs that encircle the room. Wechose a cozy corner with two sofas and a coffee table. I wassomewhat hesitant, because the noise of the traffic had botheredme on previous visits to “The Balcony Lounge” at thesame location. However, attractive panels that act as soundbarriers, while the spaces between allow for good air circulation,have remedied this.We ordered drinks, red wine and beer, although the well stockedbar offered a huge variety of cocktails, mixed drinksand exotic concoctions. Unfortunately, our coffee drinkerwas limited to regular coffee, as cappuccino was unavailable.Squinting at the menu in the very dim light, a member inour party commented. “You need a flashlight to read this.”But her enthusiastic friend responded, “Yes, but it’s as closeto New York you’ll ever get in this country.” She is probablyright. However, the prices are too.A NOT overly generous glass of good red wine ¢1,380($3) and a domestic Imperial beer ¢1,057 ($2.38), seemedsomewhat high, as these didn’t include the 13% tax. We allagreed that one has to remember there’s no cover charge.First-class entertainers, Fuzzy Rojas and her band, were wellworth what we paid for our drinks and samplings from themenu.Owners Jennifer and Henry Hane studied at New York’sFrench Culinary Institute and their creative, enticing fare isas appetizing as it looks. A visit to New Orleans inspiredthem to recreate the mood and music of Bourbon Street inCosta Rica and may they continue to do so.The menu has musical connotations and is divided into“First Set” – appetizers – and “Second Set” main courses.Appetizers are priced ¢1,750 ($3.95) for a bowl of interestingsounding soups or a Caesar salad. The rest rangingfrom ¢2,450-3,450 ($5.50-7.80), include a variety of springrolls, shrimp tempura, carpaccio and duck pot stickers. Thegenerous helping of succulent sesame seed coated squidand delicious tangy seafood sauce was a hit all round, plusthe spring rolls, though a small portion, were deemedexcellent.The “Second Set,” which we didn’t sample, includedbeef, chicken, fish and seafood. Prices ranged from ¢3,950-10,950 ($8.90-25) for surf and turf. Dinner patrons wereenjoying fine dining, while many others relaxed with theirdrinks and bites on the periphery.FAMILIAR with Jennifer Hane’s astounding calorieladendreams, the team was craving desserts. The waiter, who was not particularly helpful in general, informed us that the chef was the dessertmaker, but we ordered anyway. He must be congratulated. The apple strudel ¢3,000 ($6.75)was deemed “a killer” and the banana flambé ¢2,500 ($5.65), coated with a brûlee crustaccompanied by a light chocolate mousse and slivered almonds, received unanimous accolades,as did the spectacular presentations.The menu states that prices don’t include 13% tax. This, plus 10% service, can makequite a difference when the bill arrives. Our bill seemed excessively high, so we went outto the brightly lit balcony to check it and found we had been overcharged. Two extra itemsthat we never ordered had been included. This unfortunate error however, did not spoil adelightful evening of memorable entertainment and we’ll certainly be back to hear Rojasand her band, or another of the musicians in the future.Balcony Jazz Club & Café is located in Plaza San Rafael, 100 meters west of PlazaColonial in San Rafael de Escazú, and is open Monday-Saturday from 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Forinfo regarding performers and reservations, call 228-6602.

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