A Year In Food

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

Monday, February 14, 2005

Feb. 14.

And how about the view?


El Avion - Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Crema de langosta (cream of lobster soup), pepper mahi-mahi, Negocio de Monos (Monkey Business - Malibu rum, vodka, Bailey's, banana)
10209 colones (~$21.95)

For our last day in town, Pat proposing going somewhere nicer for lunch. This wasn’t too much of a challenge because Manuel Antonio is so geared toward tourism and leisure. Driving down the main road connecting Manuel Antonio and neighbor Quepos, we noted the various options, many of them run by the pricier hotels. We ended up choosing a place called El Avion, because I think Pat liked the airplane at the front of the restaurant. (We then learned this Fairchild C-123 was one of the actual planes bought by the CIA in what became the Iran-Contra scandal.)

Even before we ordered, El Avion was eager to stun. Taking a table at the edge of the restaurant, Pat and I were treated to a gorgeous view of the Pacific. A smiling waiter came over and shared the sight with us. “How do you like my office?” he said. “This is my office.” It was a charming introduction, but it would’ve received a bigger laugh if I weren’t about to be stuck in my all-too-real office in the all-too-near future.

I started with a lobster bisque. It had a strong flavor I haven’t encountered in American bisques and was a dark orange color that was closer to France than New England. It was also topped with a green olive oil drizzle, another touch new to me. Overall, the soup was good, the creamy consistency broken up by the drops of oil. But the taste wasn’t compelling enough to make me want to finish off the large bowl and disappointingly, there weren’t any chunks of lobster in the bisque.

On the other hand, I was ready and willing to finish the entrée. Going with the pepper mahi-mahi over the Cajun mahi-mahi on my waiter’s recommendation, I suspect I made the right choice. He was also right to warn me that it’d be spicy, because the fish was far from shy in asserting its peppery personality. But the level of spice worked well here, giving the fresh seafood a lively charge. The sides that came with the fish were once again predictable and simple, but still an improvement from many of the other sides I’d tried on my trip. Adding corn to the rice and seasoning the vegetables well at least showed that El Avion took some care in choosing sides.

Still, the highlight of our lunch had to be my drink, the Negocio de Monos. Whoever dreamt up this cocktail deserves an honorary Ph.D. in mixology. It contained fresh-pureed banana, coconut rum, Bailey’s and vodka, with each ingredient represented in generous proportion, and each working together in delicious unison. The use of real bananas rather than some cobweb-coated packaged substitute made a massive difference and the coconut and coffee were inspired additions. Tropical, refreshing, fun and relaxing, the Negocio de Monos epitomized “vacation” in a sip, and it’s honestly one of the best drinks I’ve had.

We ended up sitting at the restaurant for hours, too enchanted by the serene view to leave and too reluctant to admit our time was swiftly coming to an end. El Avion had done its part by being the nice restaurant we were looking for, hitting a few noteworthy heights while providing a comfortable ride free of turbulence. 7/10

Cantina Salsipuedes - Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Pinchos de cerdo (pork shish kabob), calamari, filet de dorado (fileted mahi-mahi), carnitas mexicanas (Mexican beef carnitas), dos vasos de vino rojo de casa (two glasses of house red wine)
6250 colones (~$13.44)


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