Azúcar, a favorite breakfast haunt and pastry shop formerly located in the western San José suburb of Escazú, has recently moved to the fastdeveloping community of Santa Ana, southwest of the capital. Word of mouth travels fast, as few breakfast options exist here apart from the usual chain restaurants on the road northward to Belén.
I recently accompanied a group of big breakfast aficionados, known to scour the country in search of a good breakfast, to the restaurant’s new location. After its recent facelift, Azúcar’s lime-green color scheme, wrought-iron furnishings, well-stocked bar and front and rear patio seating make it a cool, appealing place to enjoy a meal. I advise sitting in the rear, as the front overlooks the busy thoroughfare leading west out of Santa Ana.
The restaurant offers the usual Tico breakfast fare: a hearty combination of eggs, gallo pinto, fried ripe plantain and steak will definitely sate the appetites of those looking for real sustenance. Our group’s tastes leaned more toward the “American-style” breakfast, and everybody enjoyed their scrambled or fried eggs, generous portions of crispy bacon and large slabs of toast made with homemade bread.
Chef José Torre s obviously had a dilemma with the hash browns.When he appeared to see if we were happy campers, I pointed out that his homemade ones were accompanied by the frozen supermarket variety; his response was a sweet smile and no comment.
Excellent coffee and a friendly, attentive waiter rounded off our morning repast, which could have included alternatives of omelets, pancakes and French toast. My friends will no doubt return, and I’ll be back to sample one of the delicious, freshly baked croissants from the bakery counter, which offers an array of scrumptious pastries, cakes and pies, baked on the premises by pastry chef Alexander Torres.
Not Just Breakfast
Though well known for its breakfasts, Azúcar serves dinner as well, so I returned to the restaurant for an evening meal with two companions.While the menu features a variety of choices, including pork, chicken, seafood and pasta, we were there to sample the steaks, having heard that the restaurant’s owners, Barbara and Dean Jupiter, raise their own beef cattle on a special, all-natural diet.
Our keen, young waiter arrived with a tray displaying the wrapped cuts available that night: a choice of porterhouse, rib eye, Tbone, New York strip and London broil. We opted for a porterhouse and rib eye to share between the three of us, and it was ample.
Cooked rare as ordered, the steaks were tender with a good meaty flavor, though unseasoned. When they arrived, our waiter proceeded to carve them, but at our request stopped and allowed us to do it ourselves.
Unfortunately, the serving platter was cold, as were our plates, and we were soon eating cold steak. Hopefully, this will be remedied in the future with a small heated grill that keeps the steaks hot but doesn’t cook them.
Accompanying the steaks was a choice of potato, rice or yuca (cassava) patties, and salad or vegetables. The thickly sliced potatoes decorated with a dollop of sour cream were very good. However, the salad was not what we expected after our waiter, obviously confused, had described it as a traditional green salad with tomatoes, cucumber and mushrooms. Served in a filigree basket made with brown sugar, it contained a mixture of baby squash and carrots, and we found it too sweet a combination for the steak.
Azúcar is not a steakhouse, but the house specialty is steak, priced at $1.50 an ounce.
We were shocked when we received the bill, as we had no idea our porterhouse weighed 23 ounces and the rib eye 24. The total bill for two steaks, including a reasonably priced bottle of Casillero del Diablo wine (¢7,683/$15), came to a hefty ¢55,280 ($106) including 13% tax and 10% service.
However, other items on the menu are not out of line. Breakfasts average about ¢2,500-3,500 ($5-7), depending on the side orders and including coffee; soups, salads and sandwiches range ¢1,500-4,000 ($3-8); and main courses ¢3,000-6,000 ($6-12), plus tax and service.
Azúcar owners Barbara and Dean Jupiter have been raising their own beef cattle for the past three years on their farm near the Caribbean-slope town of Turrialba.
“We have always been meat lovers, and when we came to Costa Rica four years ago, we found the local beef tough and tasteless,” Barbara said.
So the couple bought some steers locally and began feeding them on a specially formulated, 100% natural diet, the basic ingredients of which are corn and hay.
“This produces white marbling in the meat,” Barbara explained, adding that the meat is well aged to enhance its natural flavor and tenderness, and then most steaks are cut bone-in, allowing the meat to be cooked to perfection.
The Jupiters’ private, home-raised beef is for the family and restaurant’s consumption. However, they sometimes sell directly to clients if supply is available.
For inquiries, call 289-3543 or e-mail [email protected].