Originally, the intention of Canadian chef Demian Geneau was to bring his thriving “product-c” seafood distribution business into the Central Valley from its source point in Malpaís on the Nicoya Peninsula. Clients soon had other ideas, and the tiny venue in Santa Ana, southwest of San José, quickly became a successful bistro specializing in fresh fish dishes and its signature shucked oyster platters, as well as being an outlet for top-quality catch-of-the-day purchases and, more recently, a selection of smoked fish. With a liquor license in place and after expansion next door, product-c Santa Ana continues to fill its tables with lunch and dinner customers.
In early April, Geneau took a whopping step up and out with the inauguration of a product-c in Avenida Escazú, the trendy commercial-center extravaganza bringing together high-end boutiques, movie theaters, restaurants, offices and hotels along the Próspero Fernández Highway in the western suburb of Escazú.
The new product-c location is custom-built to create an edgy, urban fish-market ambience, with indoor-outdoor table arrangements either side of sliding-glass wall panels, and a marble-topped bar adjacent to the highly visible prep and plating area. Decor supports the minimalist industrial look with a black ceiling, metal and wood textures and concrete floor tiling. Forget linen cloths and flowers – this is cutlery buckets on the bare tables and skimpy paper serviettes. Our outside table lacked sufficient light to read the menu, which had to be perused indoors, and the space heaters were a necessity against the chilling breeze.
But onto the food.
Just two months into service, the new product-c offers a fun and enticing array of choices. We all ordered oysters, which were sea-salty fresh but tiny, so we each got seven half-shells on our orders of six (₡6,000/$12 including tax). The accompanying vinaigrette, ponzu sauce and pear-mignonette dip sauces were deemed superfluous and only added to the table clutter, to the point where we requested an extra table to accommodate all the “stuff.”
The board specials worked very well on the whole (about ₡6,500-10,000/$13-20). My seared snapper over camote (sweet potato) slices with passion fruit and mango sauce was a successful mix of flavors, and the Thai mackerel brought raves for texture and spiciness. The delicately cooked salmon perched on huge mounds of mandolin-sliced potatoes, enough for three, in a vague leek and smoked trout sauce rather overawed another companion. The reactions from the à la carte group suggest that this menu needs more time to reach excellence. The chips in the fish-and-chips were fried at too low a heat and were mushy, but the fish was crispy and plentiful (₡5,700/$11.40). The tuna burger was overseasoned with cumin, overpowering its naturally subtle taste (₡7,000/$14).
The desserts were a great success, with special kudos for the pecan pie (₡2,400/$4.80) and little ramekin of chocolate mousse (₡2,600/$5.20).
The wine menu embraces New and Old World, not outrageous in price, with several very quaffable per-glass options (₡2,900-3,600/$5.80-7.20). But do try the delectable microbrewery draft beers, made by Costa Rica’s Craft Brewing Company in Cartago, east of the capital. They are a pleasing feature, and the dark Segua Red Ale is a delight (₡2,300/$4.60 for 16 ounces).
To sum up, product-c Avenida Escazú is getting used to its new home and undoubtedly will soon settle into its menu.
product-c Avenida Escazú
Location: Avenida Escazú commercial center, on Próspero Fernández Highway in Escazú.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday to Monday, noon to 6 p.m. Afternoon light menu offered daily from 3:30 to 6 p.m. (Hours for product-c Santa Ana, 150 m north of the Red Cross, are Tuesday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Mondays.)