San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bökaos Offers Mediterranean Food in Peaceful Rural Setting

MEDITERRANEANcuisinehas influenced thedining scene recentlyand Bökaos,like many otherrestaurants, is partof this trendy claimto fame. Here,Mediterranean gastronomyis predominantlyItalian,French and Spanish,with a samplingof Greek andNorth African – especially Moroccan –thrown in.If you are tired of alfresco dining overlookinga concrete parking lot, then a visitto Bökaos to sample its Mediterraneanmenu is certainly a peaceful option. Itsrural setting west of San José, off the roadbetween Santa Ana and San Antonio deBelén, makes nearby urbanization and theroar of traffic seems miles away.Surrounded by fields, the restaurant is setin a sprawling garden;bottlebrushand shade trees andfresh country airare all part of theattraction. Pleasantseating alternativesinclude casuallylaid tables on theterrace or in themore formal, spacious,air-conditionedinterior.A party of fourof us arrived forlunch and optedto sit inside, havingspotted severalof Santa Ana’swell-known flypopulation buzzingaround. Perhaps we needn’t have worried,as a large party on the terrace didn’t seemto be having any trouble.The dining room suited the ambianceof the restaurant, with well-spaced tables, amaroon-and-white color scheme andsandy-colored walls. On each table, a singlewhite lily in a deep red vase – resemblinga twisted bottle – complemented thevibrant acrylic of tropical flowers byBritish artist Robert Jennings. Pointing theway to the ladies’ room – not literally! –was a statue of Venus de Milo.The menu offered an interesting choiceof hot and cold starters, representing variousMediterranean countries: minestrone,French onion and seafood soup – the housespecialty – risotto with porcini mushrooms,Greek salad and an antipasto platefor two with a selection of Italian imports.We passed on these and ordered theswordfish carpaccio (¢2,600/$5.50) – whata treat! One rarely finds this fish on amenu. It was delicious, smothered with agenerous portion of tiny capers. We alsoenjoyed the fried Camembert (¢2,900/$6.25) served with a blackberry sauce,although we would have preferred thesauce to be slightly more tart and lessrunny.Mussels, fried squid and baked eggplantwith fresh tomatoes and mozzarellacheese were among the other choices.We fancied the latter, but unfortunatelyit was unavailable. It was Easter Saturday,so there was no eggplant; the waiter,who gave us good service, informedus this could be replaced with zucchini,but we declined.THE main courses – interesting choicesfrom around the Mediterranean – covereda selection of red meat, chicken, fishand pasta. My team was very obliging andordered a variety, enabling me to get a tasteof all the above offerings. The minor complaintabout the steamed fillet of corvina(¢4,200/$9), with black olives, capers,tomato, white wine and herbs, was:“Despite all the ingredients, it’s not assavory as it sounds.”From the pasta menu, the tagliolini SanMarco (¢3,100/$6.65) came with chunks ofsalmon in a cream sauce and was deemedquite acceptable. My chicken breastsMarrakesh (¢3,300/$7) were moist andtender; the turmeric sauce with gratedcoconut and a generous portion of raisinswas on the sweet side, but very goodindeed. Donning my specs, I still failed tofind the dates it was supposed to contain,but maybe they blended into the backgroundwith the raisins.One team member on her third visit toBökaos – she certainlylikes the spot– ordered, onceagain, the lambchops, and wasvery disappointedthey were unavailable.The Easterbunny had failed tomake a delivery,so she made anexcellent alternatechoice: the porkscallops in lemoncream sauce, at¢3,800 ($8), weredelicious.To accompanyyour meal, Bökaosoffers a variedwine selection, butwe found the housewine, Pasqua, at ¢900 ($1.90) a glass,acceptable for the price.FOR dessert, the flan de turrón withhoney (¢1,400/$3) was yummy, but thechocolate mousse wasn’t as chocolaty as itcould have been. The Illy brand of coffeewas freshly brewed and enjoyed by all.Bökaos is a made-up name, accordingto Spanish owner Manuel Ramos, who,with his Costa Rican partner BenjamínPiza, opened the restaurant a year ago.They’ve had problems in the past with chefturnover, resulting in reports of inconsistencyin the quality of food. Based on ourdelightful luncheon, this appears to havebeen rectified.“We’ve established a dedicated clientele,both Costa Ricans and foreigners,”Ramos commented.He apologized for not having two ofthe items we’d ordered, explaining, “It’svery difficult over Easter week to get someingredients, such as the fresh lamb, but Ihope you will pay us a return visit to try it.”We had a very pleasant lunch andagreed that the prices, though not cheap,were equivalent to many competitorsaround town that don’t have the extrabonus of a country location. Our bill,including four glasses of wine, tax and service,came to ¢37,023 ($79).Bökaos is 200 meters north ofAutomercado, Santa Ana; follow the signleading 100 meters east from the mainroad. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday,noon-10:30 p.m. For more information,call 203-4750.

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