San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

French Grill Opens in East-Side Food Complex

“Food, glorious food!” sang Oliver Twist. I’m not sure how glorious, but there is certainly plenty of it to suit all tastes and budgets in the new Antares dining complex, a huge, three-story, glass-sided building across from the Rotonda de la Bandera in San Pedro, east of San José.

A companion and I decided to check out L’Entrecôte French Grill, and were astounded to find that what sounded like a chichi French restaurant was located in an upscale, trendy food court, surrounded by chain eateries such as Spoon, RostiPollos, Chancay and Matsuri Sushi, as well as Italian ice cream, doughnut and coffee shops.

L’Entrecôte was pleasant enough, with cane tables and chairs and polite, attentive waitstaff. We had gone specifically to try the lunchtime special, served weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It was Independence Day, so only the à la carte menu was available. However, our obliging waiter said we could order the lunch special.

This consists of three options. Formula One (₡6,999/$14): The wilted Caesar salad was a disgrace – probably a day or two old – but the diced chicken breast in tarragon sauce was tasty. However, the runny, brilliant-yellow crème brûlée custard was strange, and certainly not the real McCoy. Formula Two (₡9,999/$20): Niçoise salad, catch of the day and tarte tatin, was not sampled. Formula Three (₡12,999/$26): Includes a glass of house wine and kicks off with the Caesar salad, followed by an exceptional cream of lettuce and almond soup. The small Delmonico steak had good flavor but was on the chewy side. However, the chocolate-mint mousse was delicious. All of the above include a somewhat bland medley of vegetables, mashed potatoes and a nonalcoholic beverage.

The chef, Juan Carlos Benavides, trained in France, and the large à la carte menu is based on French cuisine and looked very good. At first glance it appears expensive, but it’s not as pricey as it seems, because everything includes 23 percent tax and service.

L’Entrecôte doesn’t offer an intimate, romantic ambience, but rather a contemporary food court atmosphere for a business lunch or casual dinner. The day we were there, it seemed popular with both couples and families.

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