San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vida Adds Life to Playas del Coco

“I was tired of lousy food, hot red wine or – even worse – cold red wine,” said Eddie Ortiz, co-owner of the recently opened Peruvian restaurant, Vida, in Playas del Coco, on the northern Pacific coast.According to Ortiz, he and business partner Jonathan Fornaci were inspired to open their own restaurant so they could eat the way they were accustomed to eating.“I just did this so I could have a nice and decent meal,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”“The thing about Peruvian food is that you can eat it three times a day for three months without repeating a dish,” Ortiz added. “The cuisine is so big. We’re just touching a portion of Peruvian food here.”AT the restaurant and bar’s opening July 30, a jazz trio hummed in the background while guests including politicians, members of the business community and artists sampled a variety of appetizers, such as causa de camarones (a cold appetizer made of shrimp, lemon and ají chili), cancha (a typical Peruvian corn from the Andes) and ceviche served in shells.Head chef Miguel González, who has cooked in various restaurants in his native Peru and in Costa Rica for the past 10 years, said the permanent menu will include dishes such as sautéed mussels marinated in onion and lemon and his specialty, Chinese-influenced lomito salteado: beef strips cooked with onion, tomato and sweet chili, served with soy sauce. Desserts such as suspiro limeño, made of sweet milk, and pisco, a grape-based liquor popular in Peru, will also be available.González said the food at Vida will be different not only from restaurants in the area but also from Peruvian restaurants in general.“The food is lighter,” he said.“Everything will be natural and cooked in olive oil… (It) won’t take long to prepare, so the service will be fast, but elegant.”ORTIZ, a developer in the northwestern province of Guanacaste and a self-proclaimed artist and musician, grew up in Peru and Spain and has lived in Costa Rica on and off for the past 30 years. Much like Ortiz’s personal history, the restaurant’s décor is an eclectic and slightly unexpected mix.Simple white cloths cover the tables on the romantically lit patio, while red and blue retro chairs surround small tables inside. Old black-and-white photos of Peru hang beside Andy Warhol-style paintings by Tico artist Eric Nedrano of legendary musicians Miles Davis, Jimmy Hendrix, Keith Richards, John Coltrane and Carlos Santana.The restaurant, whose name is derived from the popular Costa Rican phrase “pura vida,” has a slogan: “Celebrate life and live a little – which people will do when they come to this restaurant,” Ortiz said, adding that he hopes nightly live music at the Playas del Coco restaurant – open daily until 2:30 a.m. – will bring life to the mellow beach town.VIDA will also showcase art, such as that of renowned artist and former professional soccer player Felo García, who was present at the opening, along with his art collections entitled “Urban Corners” and “Oceans and Reefs.” The restaurant will house rotating exhibits of García’s work and that of other artists in the future.Ortiz’s hope for the restaurant is that “everybody will come out of here thinking, ‘It’s about time this area had a world-class restaurant,’” he said. “This will be the best restaurant in Costa Rica – guaranteed.”Vida is open daily for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Its permanent menu and prices will be determined in the near future.

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