From the print edition
In our increasingly urbanized surroundings, it makes a pleasant change to find somewhere to eat out with views over fields and trees instead of busy roads or shopping mall parking lots. Alquimia is a modest little restaurant tucked away off the road from Santa Ana to Lindora, west of San José.
It’s an oasis away from city bustle and noise, and its theme is an eclectic mix of healthful dishes emphasizing locally sourced produce where possible. Not quite vegetarian, it offers some chicken and fish plates, but no red meats, pork or shellfish. Eight wooden tables are arranged with colorful cloths on two levels of the open-sided dining terrace, with comfortable upholstered seating and a couple more outside tables set by the glass-fronted entry.
A first visit coincided with one of Alquimia’s all-you-can-eat sushi deals (Sun., noon-3 p.m., Sat. and Wed. 7-10 p.m.). The ₡8,500 ($17) menu includes miso soup, salad and a constant supply of sushi rolls.
These are combined with traditional rolls such as California and salmon skin, but there are also some interesting twists using trout, fruit, cream cheese, heart of palm, cucumber and crispy yucca. Instead of imported sushi vinegar, the rice is flavored with local banana vinegar.
Tico chef and owner Julio Alpizar is adamant about a 0 km-approach for his supplies in Alquimia. He studied cooking near Parma, Italy, where the trend is to support regional foods and neighborhood farmers instead of imported goods from thousands of kilometers away. “Our chicken dishes use free-range hens from next door, so it doesn’t come much closer than that,” Alpizar explains with a smile.
During my second visit, our group went for the exotic juices of ginger, orange and honey. The Chlorophyll (₡1,100/$2.20), with its orange, basil and honey, was particularly refreshing. Alquimia has no liquor license but is happy to open your bottle of wine or beer at no extra charge.
For appetizers, we selected causa limeña with tilapia and onion-stuffed mashed potato, accompanied with a tangy orange sauce (₡1,800/$3.60), a mound of crispy battered tempura vegetables over fried rice noodles with dipping sauce (₡2,600/$5.20), and a rich creamy garlic and coconut milk soup (₡2,950/$6).
All were deemed a success. The tilapia in pineapple with sautéed celery, chard, onion and carrot vegetable mix and flavorful rice worked well (₡4,200/$8.40), but the tilapia with miso (₡4,950/$10) was overpowered by the sauce and very salty. The tagliatelle of rice noodles and vegetables with salmon chunks in coconut milk sauce (₡4,500/$9) was generous in size – and tasty.
Desserts are limited to vanilla ice cream sprinkled with tempura crumbs (₡2,750/$5.50) and caramelized pineapple pieces (₡1,000/$2), although specials are added occasionally.
Location: 300 m north of Red Cross, Santa Ana, opposite Más X Menos
Hours: Mon.-Fri., noon-4 p.m., 6-9 p.m.; Wed. and Sat., noon-4 p.m., 6-10 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Contact: 2282-2641, www.facebook.com/restaurantealquimia