San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Vegetarians Have New Oasis in San Rafael de Escazú

Adelightful oasis flourishes among the fast food outlets and trendy, expensive restaurants and bars in the western San José suburb of San Rafael de Escazú. Oasis Coffee Shop & Fusion is a haven for lovers of vegetarian food and also caters to vegans and those who adhere strictly to raw food. And if you fancy a little more than exotic, inventive “rabbit food,” you will find a small selection of chicken and fish among the offerings.

The budget-conscious will be happy to hear that prices at Oasis are very reasonable and include tax and service. You’ll find nothing over ¢3,800 ($6.80), and prices for most items on the menu are about or below $5.

This friendly, relaxed, family affair is the inspiration of longtime resident Maurice McPhail, his wife, Marietta, who makes the healthy, yummy desserts, and their daughter, Stephanie, the hostess and sous-chef. The recently retired McPhail, who served as the British Embassy’s commercial attaché for 18 years, is Oasis’ “director of public relations and international events.”

“Actually, I’m a jack-of-all-trades – including chauffer, dishwasher and delivery boy,” he says with a laugh. “Marietta has always wanted to open a coffee shop and has been working on dessert recipes for years,” he adds. “Our concept is to offer healthy food that tastes delicious.”

And this is exactly what Oasis does, thanks to talented chef Mario Bello, who will take you on a salubrious gastronomic journey filled with an abundance of wholesome ingredients, fresh fruit, vegetables and myriad herbs and spices.

The small front porch seats eight to 10 people and offers a breezy casual atmosphere. The interior, with its wrought-iron chairs, seats 15 diners, and the tile-top tables boast the handiwork of the talented Marietta. Limegreen, tomato-red and mustard-colored walls add to the coziness of the small eatery, which offers newspapers, magazines, a CD and book exchange and, coming soon, wireless Internet.

Last month, two friends and I visited Oasis to sample its special Valentine’s Day dinner and immediately fell in love with the roasted tomato and garlic soup, delicious  wheat and linseed rolls and green salad with walnuts and a raspberry cream dressing. This was followed by large, homemade spinach and tomato ravioli stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and ricotta cheese, served with wilted greens and a butter-sage dressing.

Marietta’s light yogurt cheesecake with a blackberry Syrah coulis made a perfect ending to the meal, as did the light, moist, Caribbean queque de tres leches, which, unlike the traditional, very sweet variety, was made with coconut milk and was drizzled with a fresh ginger syrup. For this special occasion, talented guitarist Bruce Callow, political and public affairs officer at the British Embassy, accompanied diners, and may do so on weekends in the future.

Delighted with my first visit, I paid another to sample the regular menu with its selection of appetizers, salads and a small choice of pasta, pizza and sandwiches. The main courses also offer chicken and fish and come accompanied by soup and salad, as do the sandwiches. I tried the Tiko Rolls, mixed shredded vegetables wrapped in rice paper and served with a peanut or tamarind dipping sauce (¢2,200/$3.90). From the brunch menu, my companion ordered the Tofu Scramble with assorted vegetables (¢2,500/$4.50). We were extremely happy with both flavorful choices, bursting with freshness.

Thirst-quenchers include natural fruit juices, blended vegetable concoctions – some almost a meal in themselves – and the popular agua de sapo, fresh lemonade laced with ginger. If you feel the need for some stronger grape juice, you are welcome to BYOB.

Salivating at the thought, I plan to return again for breakfast, Saturday or Sunday brunch, a light snack or meal. Oasis is not for those looking for a large steak or greasy, calorie-laden foods, but for vegetarians it couldn’t be better. Daily specials are always offered and posted at Home delivery is available in the Escazú area.

Location: San Rafael de Escazú, 100 m north and 150 m west of Vivero Exótica, in front of Apartotel María Alexandra. Guarded street parking is available.

Hours: Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Tuesday.

Phone: 8835-8992, 8816-9387.



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