With competition in the restaurant business rife these days, succeeding in opening a new establishment is a challenge for even the most experienced restaurateur. A recent visit to M&N Steakhouse and Smokehouse in the western San José suburb of Escazú proved without a doubt that this new eatery will give other fine dining establishments a run for their money.
M&N’s Swiss owner and executive chef, Milos Colic, learned his international gastronomy skills while traveling the world for 10 years. His Cuban partner, Neftali García, has years of experience in Cuban cuisine. The two chefs offer a high standard of excellence in their restaurant, where taste, presentation and service are the order of the day. And although M&N calls itself a steakhouse, it offers plenty of options for vegetarians as well.
A companion and I arrived for lunch to find waitstaff galore buzzing around like bees to accommodate us. We chose to sit on the pleasant wraparound veranda, which was the only bad decision we made that day. Because of the restaurant’s location overlooking a busy intersection, the noise of the traffic almost drowned out our conversation. Inside, the inviting bar and pleasant surroundings are set off by an elaborate, centerpiece chandelier that adds a touch of elegance. Barflies can watch a game of NFL football on the large TV screen behind the bar, although M&N is not a sports bar. Both inside and out, the cream-and-black, cowhide-themed leather armchairs are very comfortable.
Headwaiter Lorne Chavas gave us top-notch, professional service throughout our meal. When we ordered glasses of house wine, the Chilean Santa Ema chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon were accompanied by a plate of complimentary, tasty ham pâté.
It was a delight to read the exceptionally well-designed menu; the tempting color photos are enough to make you salivate even if you are not hungry.
From the appetizers we shared an order of delicious mushrooms stuffed with finely chopped bacon, spinach and cheese. Other choices include shrimp-stuffed mushrooms, mussels au gratin, ceviche, carpaccios and an interesting variety of salads and chilled cream and hot soups. No doubt, soup and a salad would make an excellent, satisfying lunch. All of the above are priced ₡3,500-₡7,900 ($7-$16), including tax. Traditional juicy burgers and chicken burgers come with chunky fries, plus there’s a choice of wraps, sandwiches and panini with a selection of tempting fillings (₡5,500-₡7,900/$11-$16).
Main course options are abundant and include both innovative and well-known chicken recipes, brochettes, smoked pork loin, ribs and chops and fish and seafood. Both U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified beef and premium certified Angus beef are used for all the traditional cuts of steaks, which come in many different sizes. Chicken dishes start at ₡6,900 ($14), pork at ₡8,500 ($17) and fish and seafood at ₡8,000 ($16). Prices for beef cuts vary considerably according to weight; expect to pay anything between ₡10,000 and ₡28,000 (from $20 up to $56 for an Angus beef rib eye with bone).
After much deliberation, my companion and I, both small eaters, decided on an M&N combination platter so we could get a sampling of everything. These platters are either individual or for two or four people (₡9,500-₡34,000/$19-$68). We chose the individual one, and even then it was too much for us, and I enjoyed a very good doggy bag dinner the next night. Our sizzling platter consisted of a small steak, juicy grilled chicken, a tender serving of pork loin, two yummy ribs and a delicious Italian sausage. Everything was cooked to perfection, including the rare steak. All main courses come with a choice of two side orders and a sauce from an interesting and varied selection. We ordered the extremely generous serving of asparagus and wonderful chunky French fries.
Enough is enough, so we passed on the dessert menu (which is being revised) and enjoyed our coffee with complimentary glasses of grappa and Amaretto.
We were both delighted with our outstanding meal and vowed we would not hesitate to pay a return visit to M&N Steakhouse and Smokehouse.
Location: La Paco commercial center, across from BAC San José on the old road from Escazú to Santa Ana
Hours: Noon-11 p.m. daily