“A kitchen is not a democracy,” says JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa Executive Chef Eric Sala, who describes himself as a boss with a “super cool” attitude.
The French-born chef ’s stamp is present on every mouthwatering dish at the lavish new resort at Hacienda Pinilla, on the northern Pacific coast. Four very different restaurants range from the Asian-fusion Tamarine and the elegant Sabanero steakhouse to the light, fresh cuisine of the Mediterraneanstyle Azul Pool Grill and Mansita Restaurant’s gourmet breakfast extravaganzas.
The Azul Pool Grill probably has the best view in the resort, overlooking beautiful Playa Mansita and the giant infinity pool. Guests can enjoy six different types of ceviche at this spot. The executive chef ’s version of corvina ceviche ($14) is particularly refreshing. The fish is marinated in fresh lemon juice and coconut milk, along with jalapeño, sweet pepper, red onion and cilantro, for at least four hours and is served on a coconut shell with a mango slice on top.
Enjoying this dish in the terrace lounge area while looking at the ocean and listening to live bossa nova is simply priceless. Azul Pool Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
If you’re craving a good steak, the place for you is Sabanero, where a 14-ounce New York strip will cost you less than $20. This steakhouse also satisfies the sweet tooth, with treats such as crème brûlée a la tica ($7), a Costa Rican take on the popular French dessert that introduces coffee as its secret ingredient. Sabanero Steakhouse is open for dinner only from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
An infinite array of breakfast choices is offered at Mansita Restaurant, from omelets custom-made by an onsite chef with savory ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes and smoked salmon to a variety of homemade breads, croissants and bagels, as well as an incredible selection of meats, including prosciutto, salami and chorizo. An assortment of cereals, fruits and fresh juices is also on offer.
A la carte breakfast prices range from $4.50 for fried eggs to $14.50 for a full American breakfast. (Breakfast is included in some rate packages.) Mansita serves breakfast from 6 to 11 a.m. and lunch from noon to 3 p.m.
During high occupancy days, it’s also open for dinner from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Perhaps the most alluring restaurant onsite is Tamarine, which combines Thai and Japanese cuisine with an immensely appealing setting. While listening to traditional Indian or Japanese music, guests can enjoy appetizers such as the Thai chicken salad, made with snow peas, shredded carrots, chopped napa cabbage and bean sprouts and topped with a peanut-ginger dressing and tasty wonton crisps ($10.50), or the popular tempura shrimp, served with an orange salsa and a coconut reduction ($18). Main dishes include chicken and peanut panang curry ($16) and spicy pork loin and zucchini, combining zesty red curry with coconut cream and soy sauce ($16). Tamarine is open only for dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Complementing these four restaurants is the Lobby Bar, offering a great variety of drinks and a light menu. Among the bar’s signature drinks, which resident bartender Jorge Gutiérrez guarantees will cool you off on a hot Guanacaste day, are the Mojito Gunas ($12), which introduces Angostura bitters to the usual mint, lime, sugar and rum, and the CaiPinilla ($12), which replaces the lime in the famous Brazilian drink with lush strawberries. Light menu items here include mozzarella and Brie quesadillas ($12), smoked salmon ($15), duck spring rolls ($14) and prosciutto panini ($16). Hours are 3 to 10:30 p.m.
Nonguests are encouraged to call 2681-2000 to make reservations for any of the resort’s restaurants. All prices are subject to change, depending on market prices. Chef Sala, with a 25-year international career behind him in places as diverse as France, Miami and Jamaica, says he loves to incorporate unusual fruits and vegetables, such as passion fruit, pitaya (dragon fruit), plantain, yuca (cassava) and camote (sweet potato), into his creations.
His Latin American influence is evident in many dishes, such as the luscious skewered shrimp appetizer with a sweet passionfruit sauce served as a special at Sabanero.
Additionally, Mansita Restaurant serves an occasional regional breakfast with plantainfilled empanadas or the popular Salvadoran pupusas, thick, handmade corn tortillas filled with beans, cheese and other ingredients.
With such a varied array of delectable options, guests should never tire of the fare at the new JW Marriott Guanacaste.