San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Wine and Dine Your Valentine

VALENTINE’S Day is a special timeof celebration for lovers. However, on thisday of hearts and flowers, those we cherish,be they family or friends, also deserveattention.The traditional day of love, Feb. 14,dates back to a Roman pagan fertilityright. In 270 A.D., Emperor Claudius IIissued an order forbidding marriage; hebelieved married men made bad soldiers.So Valentine, a Christian bishop, marriedyoung lovers in secret and was sentencedto death for it. While awaiting execution,he fell in love with the jailer’s blinddaughter. He miraculously restored hersight and left her a farewell messagesigned, “from your Valentine.” This phrasewritten by the martyred priest has survivedthe passage of time.More loved ones are taken out to dinneron Valentine’s Day, along withMother’s Day, than any other time of theyear. Many lovers return to their favoritehaunts, where romantic memories arerekindled, while others are more venturesomeand try something new.Where to wine and dine your belovedcan pose quite a dilemma, but many restaurants,both in and around San José, offerValentine’s Day specials with flickeringcandlelight, red roses and cozy tables fortwo. Out of town, restaurants devise tropicalnights for romantics under the stars.Here are a few of the many optionsavailable; it’s advisable to call for details(some were not available at press time) andmake reservations.Central ValleyThe elegant Capital Grill at WhiteHouse Hotel (288-6362), with its stunningvista, must surely be the pinnacle ofromance. Perched high on a hilltop abovethe western suburb of Escazú, diningamong the stars with your beloved is a fantasycome true. Three special menus willbe offered ranging in price from $30-66plus tax, with main dishes ranging from asimple half chicken or juicy prime rib tosurf and turf or jumbo lobster tail.Mirador Valle Azul (811-8282) isanother lovebirds’ aerie standing on alookout point above San Antonio deEscazú. Italian cuisine is the specialty, anda Valentine’s Day celebration is in theplanning.In San Rafael de Escazú, 600 meterssouth of El Cruce, Chango’s (228-1173)offers an appetizing menu that includes bigjuicy steaks. To accompany yourValentine’s Day celebration, enjoy twoglasses of complimentary wine with eachdinner, plus live trova,popular and LatinAmerican music by DuoMotivos.The Taj Mahal (228-0980), on the old road toSanta Ana, southwest ofSan José, adds spice toyour romance and warmsthe cockles of your heartwith tandoori specialtiesand the exotic flavors ofIndia. On Valentine’sDay, diners will be presentedwith a gift andwelcome cocktail.FOR those who relishsushi, teppan-yakiand bulgoki, Benihana(296-0073), on the northside of La Sabana Park inSan José, has it all. Upstairs in the karaokebar you can serenade your beloved with aromantic song.Close by, Restaurante Beirut (296-9622) specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine,including some of the tastiest lamb intown. On Valentine’s Day, gyrating bellydancers will add passion and vigor to theoccasion.On the west side of town, toward LosAnonos bridge, Bangkok (296-6110)offers Thai and Indonesian cuisine that willkeep your taste buds tingling, while theclassy ambience adds to the occasion.JUST off Paseo Colón as you head intotown, Saisaki (223-7079) is known for itssmall, friendly atmosphere and excellentPacific Rim dishes. You can sit at the well stockedsushi bar or watch the chefs concoctKorean and Philippine specialties. ForValentine’s Day, something special will beon the agenda.Right in the heart of downtown SanJosé, El Mirador Restaurant (222-2424),on the 17th floor of the Holiday InnAurola, will be offering a Valentine’s Daydinner. Take pleasure in the refined ambienceand city views as you enjoy the internationalcuisine.dubbed “Love at First Sight,” “True Love”and “Soul Mates.” Options are availablefor vegetarians and vegans. For lovebirdswho want to stay, dreamy, dome-shapedcabins are scattered among the lush tropicaljungle. Reservations are a must.BEACH resorts and restaurants onGuanacaste’s northern Pacific coastabound. One of the most luxurious, theFour Seasons Resort on the PapagayoPeninsula, offers an unforgettable experience.Call 696-0000 for Valentine’s specials.A stone’s throw south, in PlayaHermosa, Ginger (672-0041) has a cool,open-air martini bar and Asian andMediterranean appetizers galore. And foreverything from Paris to Neptune’s garden,visit The Bistro at Hotel La Finisterra(672-0293).In Playas del Coco, try PapagayoSeafood (670-0298) – the name says it all– or the Louisiana Bar and Grill (670-0400) for spicy gumbo and jambalaya.Just west of Coco, at Ocotal BeachResort (670-0321), a luxurious night canbe combined with a stunning sunset cocktail,followed by international cuisine. Thepopular Picante (670-0901) at lovelyBahía Pez Vela Resort is another goodchoice.Farther down the coast in Tamarindo,the party never ends at Tamarindo VistaVillas (653-0114), and the Monkey Barwill be hopping with loving couples andgroovy singles. The Valentine’s nightextravaganza will kick off with a stunningsunset.FIRST-class hotels, dining and terrificnightlife are all part of the scene in ManuelAntonio, the most sought-after destinationon the central Pacific coast. If you’re abeach-combing Romeo and Juliet, David’sCuisine (777-3460) will chill the champagneand cook a gourmet dinner for youright on the beach.The Blue Monkey RainforestRestaurant at Hotel Mono Azul (777-1548) has a Valentine’s Day dinnerplanned, including choice of surf and turffor two, filet mignon or shrimp, dessert andcoffee. Champagne, sangria or wine is alsoincluded, and, to top off the occasion,every lady will receive a rose. The bargainprice is $19 per person (tax and service notincluded).At Hotel Plinio (777-0055), amorouscouples will be serenaded by Santos andhis inspirational Indian music, whileenjoying Sabina’s classic Valentine’s dinnerbrimming with homegrown herbs andspices. For $28 per person (plus tax andservice), lovers can enjoy cream of freshtomato soup, surf and turf for two, a sweetheartdessert, a glass of wine, a red rose forthe lady and a chocolate heart for the gentleman.If you want to flirt with somethingmore titillating, the pungent, aromaticIndian menu is a wonderful alternative.ON the southern Caribbean coast, LaPecora Nera (750-0490), in Playa Cocles,just south of Puerto Viejo, is the perfectcombination of romantic candlelight diningand outstanding Italian cuisine. High-spiritedchef Ilario Giannoni’s homemadepastas, nightly specials and mouthwateringdesserts are accompanied by an excellentwine list. For this gourmet lovers’ paradise,reservations are a must.In Puerto Viejo, on the main street, thelaid-back El Loco Natural (750-0263) is afun place to hang out and listen to livemusic while enjoying healthy fare servedwith incredible sauces. The yummy shakesare an added bonus.For lovebirds on a budget, tiny ChileRojo’s seafood, Thai and vegetarian offeringsare delicious and come highly recommended.In Cahuita, you couldn’t find a moreromantic, rustic setting than Sobre LasOlas (755-0109). The sound of the wavesis music to the ear as you enjoy excellentItalian fare.

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