Malpaís and Santa Teresa were once undiscovered paradises reserved only for intrepid beach lovers.
Today, the lure of the Pacific Ocean’s waves has turned these sleepy little villages on the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula into an idyllic destination and booming surfer’s playground.
Nestled in the jungle, overlooking the ocean or situated along the beachfront road, hotel and accommodation options cater to everybody’s pocketbook. You’ll find a vast range of choices to satisfy your hunger pangs and quench your thirst, as the area abounds with cheap and cheerful eateries, laid-back bars, pizzerias and an eclectic array of charming restaurants offering Thai, sushi, vegetarian and Mediterranean cuisine, as well as some of the finest ocean-fresh seafood in the country, acquired daily from local fishermen.
In Santa Teresa, a favorite with residents and visitors alike is the delightful, small Brisas del Mar. The trademark of many area restaurants consists of casual, open-air, candlelit dining in a simple tropical setting under a roof of woven palms. Brisas del Mar has all of this, as well as charming owners and indisputably excellent food.
Five of us arrived for dinner and were greeted by Canadian owner Barbara Dewhurst, while her British husband, Jon, went full tilt in the open kitchen, assisted by a sous chef and other helpers.
Our very efficient waiter, Jared, showed us two blackboards: one with a menu that changes daily according to the catch of the day, and another displaying exotic tropical fruit drinks made with rum, vodka and tequila.
Fish dominated the menu, but beef tenderloin with brandy peppercorn sauce and grilled chicken in a creamy sun-dried tomato sauce were available for those who didn’t fancy the spoils from Neptune’s garden.
Seafood lovers all, we decided to share an appetizer of grilled calamari. The large, tender chunks of squid were smothered in an olive oil, black olive and caper sauce. It was hard to resist ordering another portion of this mouthwatering starter to go with the complimentary hummus, julienned beets and fresh tomato salsa.
Main courses, served with a large mixed salad and either roasted potatoes or rice, arrived piping hot and appetizingly presented.
Our choices – lightly grilled sesamesoy tuna, corvina in a lemon, caper and dill
sauce, and mahimahi dressed with ginger, scallions and soy sauce – were all deemed delicious, and the fish couldn’t have been fresher. The seafood connoisseurs thoroughly enjoyed the large grilled shrimps in chililime butter and the mixed seafood grill.
Prices for the above, including 13 percent tax but not 10 percent service, ranged from ¢6,300 to ¢7,200 (about $11 to $12).
With little room left for Barbara’s homemade desserts, we passed on the fudge brownie and blueberry cheesecake but decided to share the moist Bailey’s chocolate torte (¢3,500/$6).
After dinner, when things got quieter, we talked to the Dewhursts about what brought them to Santa Teresa. Jon, with his English pub background, has lived in Santa Teresa for seven years. Three years ago, he met Barbara, who was traveling through the area. Cupid aimed his arrows, which resulted in wedding bells and the opening of Brisas del Mar. Two weeks after the restaurant opened, Barbara learned she was pregnant.
“Despite the fact that I love to cook, Jon had to take over, as I couldn’t stand the smell of food that permeated the kitchen,” she said. “I’m still the pastry chef, but, now that I’m expecting again, I prefer a quiet evening at home.”
This is rarely possible, however, as the Dewhursts run a tight ship, and the success of Brisas del Mar, apart from the excellent food, is the friendly welcome and service guests receive the moment they set foot in this highly recommended restaurant.