A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Feb. 8.

RostiPollo's and a miniature feast


RostiPollo's - Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Medio pollo asado a la leña (half of a spit-roasted chicken) with cole slaw and tortillas, plátanos maduros (fried yellow plaintains), some of Pat’s queso fundido, a medium Fanta orange

4314 colones (~$9.28)

Ah San Jose. The scent of ripe mangoes in open air markets. The crackle and crunch of tires on unpaved roads. The juxtaposition of broken down villages and four star hotels. Pat and I didn’t get into the Costa Rican capital until two because we missed our 5 am flight and had to take the next one with a layover in Guatemala. My vacation was just starting and I was already racking up the passport stamps.

The weather was beautifully warm when we landed. Taxi drivers were swarming hectically around the airport exit shouting at us to get in their cars. We ended in the Toyota of a friendly woman named Inez, unsure if we were going to be kidnapped or mugged. Instead, Inez and I ended up in talking for the entire twenty minute drive as I pieced back together the fragments of my high school Spanish. Pat, who’d foolishly studied French, sat in the back quietly.

We got to the Real Comfort Costa Rica, starving and exhausted. After unloading our luggage, I talked to the concierge about dining options within a reasonable distance, letting him know that we’d prefer some cuisine typical of the country. “There’s nothing here,” he said, according to my loose translation skills. “The closest restaurant is fifteen minutes by taxi.” Thinking back on our recent drive, I remembered the slew of factories and office buildings that we passed approaching the hotel. Even after escaping the culinary wasteland of the Financial District, I had somehow ended up trapped in the Costa Rican equivalent!

“There is one place across the street that is a franchise,” he continued, “but they specialize in spit-roasted chicken, which is very popular Costa Rican food.” Too tired to take a taxi (we’d stayed up all night to catch the flight we missed), we settled for this franchise called RostiPollo’s. The only other option, also across the street, was a Pizza Hut, but I didn’t fly from New York to Guatemala City to San Jose to eat at Pizza Hut.

Ordering was easy as I opted for half of a spit-roasted chicken. It came quickly along with sides of tangy cole slaw and thin, floury tortillas. The very large piece of pollo was succulent, moist and very flavorful. I also started with maduros, or fried yellow plaintains. Because I always got maduros at Sophie’s, a Cuban restaurant in New York, I was curious to see how Costa Rica’s would stack up. Instead of being sliced up into chunks, RostiPollo’s plaintain came whole in a long dish and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. The cheese was a nice touch, adding a saltiness to the unctuous sweetness of the fruit. Pat’s queso fundido was also very good, the cheese hitting a good balance of stringy and soft.

When the check came, I was startled by how little it was in comparison to how stuffed I was. In Manhattan, the same meal could have been twice as much. But then again, in Manhattan, a franchise like this (cheap prices, good food, attentive table service, a wine and beer list) doesn’t exist. RostiPollo’s was thus a great, expectation-defying welcome to the Costa Rican capital and a harbinger of good things to come.


Anonymous pitz said...

Yeah I went for a couple meals at Rostipollos en Guadalupe. Very delicious.

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