San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Mi Sala Features Fine Fusion in Cuisine, Decor

Word of mouth travels fast, and the word about Mi Sala is that it’s a big hit. Opened a few  months ago in the oldTre Fratelli location in Escazú’s La Paco commercial center, Mi Sala is a new and interesting addition to the trendy restaurant scene in this western San José suburb.

I had heard rave reviews but didn’t expect to have to make reservations for 7 p.m. on a Friday night. Three of us wanted to sit on the terrace, with its comfy sofas and coffee tables, but, alas, our obliging hostess could only accommodate us inside.

Fusion is the buzzword these days when it comes to food, and Mi Sala offers plenty of this – but the interior decor of this restaurant is fusion gone berserk! We loved it, and were fascinated by interior decorators Dave and Colleen Bennett’s masterpiece.

Red is the dominant color, and the large, V-shaped seating arrangements are backed by white, wooden, barnyard-style fences.

Victorian wing chairs stand out against more contemporary ones, black leather and an attractive, rustic fireplace. Blending in perfectly with this mishmash of styles is the red roof with white beams, and the huge paper lamps that can be ugly in other settings.

We couldn’t help laughing at the large, white gorilla clutching his belly, prominently placed in the center of the restaurant among old sepia photographs. Wherever did he come from? Obviously, he had overindulged in the tempting offerings on the menu.

Large menus can be confusing, but Mi Sala’s offers an excellent, varied choice while not overwhelming diners: four appetizers and salads, two soups and 11 main courses, including steak, hamburgers, fish and chicken, plus a selection of desserts.

Talented chef Alejandro Soto has devised a variety of innovative recipes from around the world, including comfort food such as chicken potpie, empanadas and ceviche. Using an interesting combination of veggies and sauces, he takes the palate on a culinary journey to North America, Europe and the Pacific Rim.

For starters, we ordered the roasted red pepper and artichoke salad and the phyllo pastry goat cheese tart and arugula salad. Appetizingly presented, both had a combination of interesting flavors we thoroughly enjoyed.

Our main course choices also proved excellent. Guinness stout-battered mahimahi was accompanied by large, wedge-shaped chips, and the moist, tender Mi Sala chicken supreme was wrapped in serrano ham and served with truffle-mashed potatoes – though I didn’t find any truffles, the combination of bok choy with hoisin sauce was interesting and different.

The roast pork and white bean casserole was tasty; however, the diner made the mistake of tipping the side order of white rice into the casserole and ended up with a heavy, unappetizing-looking combination, which she admitted was her own fault.

For dessert, the mouthwatering pecan pie was exceptional, but the profiteroles filled with coffee ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce were disappointing, as the choux pastry was on the tough side.

Our bill came to ¢32,718 ($58), about $20 each, including tax and service but not wine and alcoholic beverages. Mi Sala has an interesting wine list and also offers a selection of wines by the glass ranging from $6 to $8.

Menus in English and Spanish quote prices in dollars and do not include tax and service. Though not for the budget-minded, what you pay is not excessive for this caliber of restaurant and the excellent, professional service.

After dinner, we chatted with Mi Sala’s congenial owner, Dave Lillie, from the U.S. city of Los Angeles. A 17-year Costa Rica resident and a renowned chef, he’s well versed in the restaurant and nightclub scene here. When we congratulated him on his restaurant’s unique decor, he said, “I wanted the restaurant to have a comfy, homey, living-room atmosphere – thus the name Mi Sala.”


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