Fine Dining, Ambience at Le Temps
THE chiming grandfather clock is a welcoming sound as you enter Le Temps. It lays the foundation for the warm reception and charming surroundings yet to come. One of a limited edition of 1,000 made to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of the first U.S. President, George Washington, this imposing granddaddy of a clock was brought to Costa Rica by Reinaldo Cartín, the owner of this new addition to the restaurant complex in San Joaquín de Flores, west of Heredia.Le Temps’ fine dining and elegant setting are a far cry from the other two restaurants in the complex: La Casona del Cerdo, with its typical Tico pork offerings, and Taberna Longhorns, a ranch-style bar with waiters decked out as cowboys. The all-wood, spacious, chalet-style building, with its 19th-century Spanish furnishings, oil paintings and wrought iron chandeliers, comprises two levels.Smokers are banished to the upper level, where the floor-to-ceiling windows can be opened. Though pleasant enough, this dining area doesn’t have the delightful surroundings found downstairs, where the fireplace and verdant indoor rock gardens – including one with a fern-clad weeping wall and gurgling fountain – are an interior decorator’s fantasy come true.Did the food live up to the decor? I’m happy to say it did, on the whole, though there were a few glitches, particularly when it came to service.FOUR of us tried the restaurant out for dinner. We ordered the house wine, Farnese Trebbia, which was acceptable, and pored over the international menu.Hovering at the ready to take our orders, our very attentive waiter made me twitchy. I like to wait and see what other people order, so I can sample something different; he thought I was having problems reading the all-Spanish menu and tried to help. Eventually, he gave up and left his irritable customer alone.My dinner companions were very obliging and ordered different items on the menu, which offered a good but not extensive selection that would please most palates – except vegetarians, who will find little to choose from here. The appetizers arrived, minus one.Both the wafer-thin beef carpaccio and the cream of potato and leek soup, with croutons, bacon bits and parsley sprinkled on top, were delicious. The Caesar salad was fine but not authentic, though it was made with romaine lettuce.The prosciutto croquettes had obviously been forgotten and made their appearance as the rest of the group’s empty plates were being cleared. Not worth the wait, they were uninteresting, and the prosciutto was hard to find.THE main courses, all attractively presented and decorated with crispy deep-fried shoestring potatoes, received only a couple of minor complaints. The chicken breast stuffed with shrimp was excellent, as was the breast of duck in orange sauce served with couscous. The steak in a prosciutto and red-wine sauce was tender, smothered in a generous portion of cubed prosciutto; however, it just barely squeaked into the rare category, as it had been ordered.The tasty lamb chops arrived pink as requested, but the meat was not top-quality and definitely on the fatty side. A doggy bag was requested, and the pooch at home had no complaints.Appetizers and soups are priced between ¢1,220-3,000 ($2.50-6.20); main courses, ¢3,100-4,900 ($6.40-10); and lamb, $14. All prices include tax and service. Nobody ordered fish or seafood, but salmon and tilapia are offered at similar prices, as well as lobster and shrimp – pricier, as always.Our waiter became totally confused when it came to desserts. Chocolate cake kept appearing out of the blue – one had been ordered, and then there were three.To ease his dilemma, we kept two, which were mundane, and insisted he replace the third with the tiramisu we had ordered. A good thing we did; it was moist, yummy and very much enjoyed, as was the excellent coffee accompanied by complimentary crème de menthe and cassis liqueurs.Whether this was to make up for the lateness of the croquettes and the chocolate cake confusion I have no idea, but it was a generous gesture.LE Temps has only been open three months and, despite the above-mentioned errors, the staff went out of its way to make us feel welcome and give us good service.The restaurant’s wine list offers a large selection. On our way out, we met some members of the Wine Club checking out the restaurant as a possibility for a future rendezvous.Hours of operation are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The restaurant has ample parking and is located in the Complejo Turístico in San Joaquín de Flores, on the main road from Heredia heading toward the airport.For information, call 265-6605.
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