San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Bondi a Finisterre Now Open in Tibás

UPON enteringBondi aFinisterre restaurantand lounge,you’d never knowyou were still inthe San José area.And you certainlywouldn’t imagineyou were on themain street of thenorthern district ofTibás, surroundedby dry cleaners,dive bars and afew traditional sodas (mom-and-poprestaurants). That’s because everythingabout this new spot – from the food tothe decor to the mellow lounge music –speaks of another time and place. Youmight even go so far as to say it resemblesthe trendy South Beach area inMiami, where Argentine chef MiguelángelGuerrero, 40, honed his skills aftertraining at New York’s Culinary Instituteof America.Opened Sept. 15, Bondi a Finisterre istruly a diamond in the rough. Argentineowner Martín Gargiulo explained how therestaurant came to be born: “I was searchingfor a space close to San José and discoveredthis place in Tibás,” he said. “Therestaurant is something really different forthe area – Mediterranean and internationalfood in a modern ambience.”AFTER witnessing Bondi a Finisterre’sconstruction – which involvedtransforming an abandoned commercialspace into a two-story “resto-bar” deckedout with funky furniture and art, bold colorsand dim lighting – I was so curious, Ihad to try it out.My dining companion and I arrived alittle before 8 p.m. on a Friday, feelinglike the first guests to show up at a party.We later realized that 8:00 is the beginningof the night for Bondi a Finisterre, aswe watched young, trendily clad patronsarrive during the course of our meal andfloat upstairs to the lounge area, while afew tables became occupied around us.Reading the menu by candlelight andperched in red, angular chairs, we selecteda salad to share as an appetizer. “KidKaola” turned out to be a refreshingwake-up for the taste buds: greens, grilledchicken, mushrooms and cucumberstopped with a tangy citrus vinaigrette. Asalad lover who often craves good fieldgreens, I quite enjoyed the plate. My diningcompanion, however, found the dressinga bit overpowering.As we were led to the main course bythe attentive service of our Englishspeakingwaiter, we nibbled on the crustybread topped with hummus and olivesthat had been brought out by chef Guerrerohimself. In fact, throughout our timethere, he occasionally appeared frombehind the low counter blocking off thevisible kitchen area to buzz around toeach table.FOR my entrée, I selected “MarAdentro,” a dish of red snapper that cametopped with garlicky shrimp – a pleasantsurprise. My companion’s “Lomo Está”(many dishes on the menu are humorouslynamed) was a nice cut of beef with akind of salt-and-pepper crust on top, givingit an extra punch. Both dishes camewith the same sides: a red-cabbage salad,grilled eggplant and French fries. That’sright – French fries! Though an unexpectedand slightly out-of-place accompaniment,they complemented the other dishes,all of which were on the salty side,and were definitely fries of the eat-witha-fork variety.After splitting a dessert dubbed“Beautiful Lin,” fried ice cream daintilypresented with hot fudge on the side, wemade our way upstairs to the lounge area.Once again, I wondered if I was still inTibás as we grabbed seats in front of thewell-stocked bar, underneath reddishlights.As I sipped another glass of the housered wine, Frontera cabernet sauvignon, Iobserved the spacious lounge’s low, redsofas fill up with people out for drinks ora bite to eat. A DJ spun mellow techno inthe corner, a fitting backdrop for loungelizards. Bondi a Finisterre’s completemenu, which includes an impressive listof brick-oven pizzas, as well as fancysandwiches, is served in the upstairslounge area.The lengthy menu also offers manytemptations in the way of pasta, chickenand seafood, such as “Rómulo y Remo,”chicken breast filled with asparagus andcheese and topped with white vermouthand basil butter. In addition to the standardmenu, there are daily dinner offerings,posted on a large blackboard, as wellas lunch specials, usually pizza or aMediterranean sandwich.THE only thing I see missing is amore extensive wine list. Though a fewArgentine and Chilean standards areoffered, you’d expect more variety from aplace whose chef and owner hail fromArgentina, known for its fabulous reds.If you’re looking for interesting foodor a new spot for late-night eats anddrinks, Bondi a Finisterre is worth checkingout. The artsy, urban vibe and the satisfactionof finding a spot off the beatenpath add to the experience.Prices are acceptable for the qualityand variety of food offered, though definitelypricey for the area. Entrées rangefrom ¢4,600-6,800 ($9-14); pizzas andappetizers are in the ¢4,000 ($8) range.Bondi a Finisterre is located 450meters west of the municipal building onthe main street of Tibás. Hours of operationare Tuesday through Saturday, 11a.m.-3 p.m. and 7 p.m.-2 a.m. For reservations,call 236-9697.

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