An attractive, gray rock entranceway with a wheelchair-accessible ramp leads into the elegant, contemporary setting of Restaurante Sebastian.
Inaugurated last September, the restaurant is yet another option for discriminating diners in the western San José suburb of Escazú.
An eye-catching motif of black and white with splashes of vibrant orange is seen throughout the two-story, artistically renovated home that houses the restaurant.
Master chef and restaurant partner Carlos Granados from Peru, owner Robert Hughes from the United States and Costa Rican general manager Gabriela Cambronero have taken immense care to create a restaurant that is a leisurely place to dine, both day and night.
Lengthwise windows overlook the lush tropical foliage in the landscaped garden at the rear of the property. No roar of Escazú traffic can be heard, and the gurgling of the small river close by adds to the tranquility of this delightful, peaceful spot.
When I arrived, I was warmly welcomed and seated in the comfortable bar to await my dining companion.As I sipped on a glass of Undurraga cabernet sauvignon, the Chilean house wine on offer, I had an opportunity to relax, appreciate the spacious surroundings and peruse the paintings by Costa Rican artists Louis Alvarado and Carla Castro. Once my friend arrived, we were offered seating in a nonsmoking or smoking area, or al fresco dining on the terrace.
As it was a chilly evening, we chose indoors, but the terrace would be an ideal alternative for lunch.
We took our seats at a roomy, stylishly set, glass-topped table by the window. The lighting and soft jazz playing in the background enhanced the atmosphere as our attentive, impeccably dressed and trained waiter Luis explained in detail the chef ’s specials. He brought us a basket of bread and a dish of freshly grated Parmesan cheese to go with the excellent olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the table. The bread was fine, but it would have been much better had it been hot, or even warm.
We pondered the menu, which was not extensive, but nevertheless offered a good choice of appetizers, three salads and soups, as well as meat, fish, chicken and pasta. Peruvian cuisine is widespread these days, and Sebastian’s menu is basically that, with an addition of Italian and Oriental fusion.
The dishes Granados offers are a representation of his creative spirit and dedication to the cuisine of his native Peru. Many of his hot and cold appetizers come from various regions he visited.
“I traveled 700 kilometers looking for different recipes with distinctive flavors,” he later told us.
Among them you will find fish and shrimp ceviches, tiraditos, cousin to the classic ceviche with rocoto or yellow pepper, and “ceshimi,” the perfect fusion between Peruvian ceviche and sashimi, served with jumbo shrimp.
Potatoes are big in Peru, and the menu offers them with a Huancaina-style sauce, as well as shrimp causa, mashed potato topped with shrimp.We passed on the ceviches, but after our conversation about Granados’ odyssey along Peru’s coastline I regretted it, and vowed to return to sample his ceviches another time.
My friend and I shared the little causas, cold mashed potato topped with shrimp, salmon and surimi (artificial crab). They were appealingly presented, tasty and slightly on the hot, spicy side. Appetizers, soups and salads range from ¢3,198-7,380 ($6-14), including taxes, with the more expensive containing shrimp.
The main courses arrived dramatically presented on differently designed square platters, a charming, unique idea. The tenderloin in fresh cilantro sauce (¢7,626/$15) was served with a medley of vegetables and pan-fried potatoes. All the steaks are imported, and ours couldn’t have been tenderer, plus it was cooked to perfection – extremely rare, as ordered.
The succulent Oriental chicken breast (¢6,150/$12) served with a flavorful teriyaki, honey, ginger and cilantro sauce, crisp vegetables and mashed potatoes was very good indeed. Among other choices, fish fillets and Peruvian fusion pasta dishes range from ¢3,200-8,364 ($6-16). Again, those with shrimp are in the higher price range. My allergy to crustaceans limited my choices somewhat; however, I’m sure if I had said “hold the shrimp,” my request would have been obligingly granted. We finished our repast with a slice of rich, yummy pecan pie and excellent coffee.
Sebastian’s wine list is extensive and most impressive, offering connoisseurs a choice of wines from Europe, South Africa, Australia and North and South America. Many are priced affordably, others eye-poppingly, such as the Opus One 2001 Valle Napa for $543 or, for that very special champagne occasion, the Dom Pérignon for $349.
When our bill arrived, I was pleasantly surprised, having heard Sebastian was very expensive. It came to ¢35,673 ($69), including 13% sales tax, 10% service and three generous glasses of house wine ¢3,252 ($6) each.
Considering the caliber of food, presentation and service, as well as the lovely ambience, I felt the prices were commensurate to any other restaurant of this class in town, and would certainly recommend the place.
Location: 600 meters south of El Cruce in San Rafael de Escazú, on the left side of the road going up to Escazú Centro. There’s a large, guarded parking lot in front.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Phone: 289-9468, 393-9043