“I wish we could videotape you actually eating this meal instead of just writing about it,” my dinner companion said as we enjoyed bite after succulent bite at Seasons by Shlomy restaurant. “I think your eyes rolling back in your head right now describe this food best.”
Fireflies dance around the perimeter of the restaurant and fresh flowers adorn poolside tables at Seasons by Shlomy, situated off the beaten path at Hotel Arco Iris in Tamarindo, on Costa Rica’s northern Pacific coast. World music soothes the auditory senses as mouthwatering aromas waft from the bar and kitchen area. The ambiance is casual, relaxed, but with more than a touch of elegance.
Guests can choose to sit under the covered dining space near the bar, on the intimate leather couch or at teak tables by the pool. This wide variety of dining arrangements allows visitors to create their own degree of formality, while still maintaining an upscale mood. Like a classic white-collared shirt, Seasons can be dressed up or dressed down depending on the occasion; it could just as easily be an ideal spot for a wedding reception as it could an easygoing gathering with friends.
Seasons owner Shlomo Koren, aka “Shlomy,” is one of those amiable people whose smile stretches all the way up to his eyes. Originally from Israel, he moved to Tamarindo seven years ago to start up his first Costa Rican restaurant, Pachanga, which operated from 2003 until 2009, after which Seasons was born. Prior to that, Shlomy attended culinary school at the renowned Le Cordon Bleu Paris.
As much as he doesn’t like to talk about his food as “fusion,” Shlomy acknowledges this is the best way to describe it. Menu items are generally light and Mediterranean in style, with lots of French, Asian and even some Tico influence.
On a breezy evening in early June, my companion and I started our meal with the blackened tuna over lemon herb pasta, a house specialty that has not changed since the restaurant opened two and a half years ago. The fish melted in my mouth and the noodles were light as air.
This was followed by a goat cheese salad with beets and mint. We were surprised to discover that we liked – no, adored – the beets, a food previously on our list of foods to avoid at all costs. (Well, we loved the way Shlomy prepared them, at least.) The dish’s fluffy fresh cheese offered the perfect contrast to the crisp red leaf lettuce.
While we waited for our entrees, the waitress brought out a basket of fresh bread sprinkled with sea salt, and two passion fruit margaritas. “Heaven in a glass,” my companion called it, the perfect balance between sweet and tart, frozen and slushy – and extremely alcoholic.
Dinner arrived just as we finished our icy beverages. My pan-seared red snapper fillet with portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar was stacked like the leaning tower of Pisa – almost too pretty to eat. The myriad flavors, especially the acidity of the vinegar, detonated upon touching my taste buds. All the ingredients were perfectly melded together, and drizzled with a delightful green dressing. My companion ordered an eight-ounce filet mignon that tasted as if it had been soaked in butter, and was served in a red cream sauce accompanied by au gratin potato medallions and sautéed vegetables.
For dessert, we opted for the white chocolate mousse, which came served in a crystal martini glass, adorned with strawberries and mint. It was sweet and delightful, with a light, creamy texture – the perfect end to a fine dining experience that incorporated all of our senses.
Because Shlomy’s restaurant is widely regarded as the best Tamarindo has to offer, we had arrived expecting extremely high prices. We were pleasantly surprised to find the menu almost unbelievably affordable. Entrees range from $8 to $16. For a comfortable $26, guests can treat themselves to a complete three-course meal – truly a bargain given the gourmet cuisine and charming atmosphere.
Seasons by Shlomy is open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m. For information, visit www.seasonstamarindo.com or call 8368-6983. The restaurant also caters private events such as cocktail parties, rehearsal dinners and weddings. It’s located in Tamarindo’s Hotel Arco Iris (www.hotelarcoiris.com, bungalows $79 to $135, deluxe rooms $95 to $150, including continental breakfast).
Tamarindo is four to five hours’ drive from San José and an hour’s drive from Liberia, capital of Guanacaste province. Domestic airlines Nature Air (www.nature air.com) and Sansa (www.flysansa.com) both serve the Tamarindo airport daily.
From the main Tamarindo road before the circle, turn left on the road to Langosta and pass Pacific Park. Continue straight until you see Hertz Rent-a-Car on your left, then turn right. Go up the road about 40 meters and turn right at the dead end. Continue about 30 meters to Seasons by Shlomy. Parking is on the right.