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grilled steak with avocado sauce casa esmeralda 
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Casa Esmeralda

Casa Esmeralda

Destination: Samara

Not to share her secret, but chef Ana Cecilia Castro uses parsley in just about all of her recipes at Casa Esmeralda in Playa Samara - and it's mind-blowing what she can do with such herbed simplicity.

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Gone are the days where dishes came garnished with just a few sprigs of parsley — Casa Esmeralda's got the mighty herb mixed right in with farm-fresh ingredients to make sauces that should be awarded first place for their novelty. We're talking fresh garlic cloves, red chili pepper including its seeds, white wine and parsley, just as the basis of her signature Esmeralda sauce — which she then smothers over juicy meat cuts and local seafood to prepare diverse dishes.

Local tomato sauce flavors chef Ana’s appetizers, Italian-style octopus, $8, seasoned with garlic and parsley, or mussels $10, in hot chili sauce, both served with slices of freshly baked bread.

Casa Esmeralda’s legendary chunky avocado sauce seasoned with capers, oregano, sweet cream and black pepper, supplements one of the restaurant's best-sellers, grilled beef tenderloin, $15.

Caramel sauce is the spotlight for dessert, so do yourself a favor and get the grilled pineapple, $5, topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Ambiance

At first glance, you may feel you just stepped into the downstairs banquet hall where your aunt hosted your last family reunion; with red and white tables cloths, wooden chairs, stucco walls, a plasma screen TV, and small bar tucked in the corner. Even though your family has respectable cooks, you'll still eat way better at Casa Esmeralda.

Service

Casa Esmeralda's quick-witted servers are more than willing to share the secret sauce recipes — but that's okay, nobody can match chef Ana's talent anyway.

Price

Appetizers $6-$9; Entrees $8-$33; Desserts $4-$5; Drinks $2-$6

Hours

Noon -9:30 p.m.; closed Sunday

Casa Esmeralda in Pictures