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Chile Rojo

Chile Rojo

Destination: Puerto Viejo

Climb the stairs of Chile Rojo and enjoy two-for-one mojitos, all-you-can-eat sushi Mondays and a smorgasbord of Japanese, Middle Eastern, Thai, Costa Rican and Tex-Mex in downtown Puerto Viejo's largest restaurant.

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Owner and Head Chef Andrew Bacon didn't always run the biggest restaurant in town. Like many foreigners moving to Puerto Viejo, Bacon yearned for a little slice of paradise and paved the way opening a small, seven-table restaurant featuring a Thai and vegetarian menu in 2002. The restaurant has since grown into a Puerto Viejo staple with a big, breezy open-air dining room on the second floor of a shopping center on the town's main street.

Bacon designed the location himself including high ceilings, comfortable seating, a sushi bar and views of downtown; everything his first restaurant never had. Along with the expanded restaurant, came an expanded menu catering to a wider audience with prices that range from affordable-for-a-backpacker to casual fine dining.

The sushi bar serves all the regular suspects as well as a few Costa Rican fusion rolls that utilize Puerto Viejo's fresh seafood like in the takoyaki, $9; made with local octopus sautéed cabbage, carrots, onion, tempura battered and topped with tapanyaki sauce, bonito flakes and Japanese aioli. Stop in on Monday nights, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., for all-you-can-eat sushi for just $12.

The entree menu includes dishes from all over the world like the Lebanese fattoush salad, vegetarian samosas with tamarind chutney or the trios tacos made with chicken, fish and beef then finished with three different salsas.

It's the Thai food though that really hits a homerun. Bacon spent six months in Thailand learning about traditional Thai cuisine and has since spent more than 10 years refining his techniques using many of the same ingredients found in Thailand such as fresh lemon grass, tamarind, curry, basil and shrimp paste.  We relished the Thai red curry, $13; fresh calamari, shrimp, octopus, marlin and clams cooked in a coconut red curry sauce, lemon grass and fresh vegetables served with rice.

Chile Rojo serves up something a little more Costa Rican for dessert, coconut encrusted caramelized banana, $5; a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled in caramel sauce served in a martini glass garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.

Ambiance

Chile Rojo's a big breezy second floor restaurant in central Puerto Viejo with views of downtown and the surrounding mountains. Glowing LED strip lights flicker blue wrapping around a light-up Christmas tree in the corner reflecting off the sushi bar. Large, beach-ball-sized paper lanterns painted with chilies illuminate the rest of the 2,368-square-foot dining room, open kitchen and lounge area.

Service

Exceptionally-friendly and thoughtful, Bacon and his staff take care of their customers.

Price

Appetizers $3-$13; Rolls $8-$10; Entrees $4-$14

Hours

12 p.m. – 10 p.m. daily

Chile Rojo in Pictures