When Koki Beach first appeared, it seemed just a little to "Miami" for me. I visited Puerto Viejo 21 times before my eventual move, and I always wanted it to stay local, funky, and a little bit raw. Every experience I've had with Koki Beach and it's fabulous owners, management, and staff (from guard to executive chef) have made me a fan. Bear with this lengthy review and I'll give you details.
The building of the restaurant and bar was with exhaustive thought and consideration to the environment and the neighborhood. Locals who had lived here for generation were assured that the building would impact or disrupt them as little as possible. The building itself is all, or nearly all recycled materials or environmentally friendly. For instance, instead of poured concrete foundations, rock cages (or gabions) are used. If ever--sadly-- the restaurant goes away there will be no large debris pile. The clever upcycling includes old doors (hinges included) as table tops, floorboards are now artsy chairs, wine bottles and coconuts are light shades that brighten and lighten the environment. Mature trees were left in place, so diners are on elevated decks in spaces made intimate with natural elements dividing spaces and creating visual interest. A keen eye can pick out hundreds of little details, from plantings to furnishings to decoration, there is nothing in the place that did not receive attention and deliberate thought.
About the food... and I LOVE food. Some of my favorites are the appetizers... yucca chips (sliced thin and served crispy with a delicious tangy dip), guac and chips (each perfectly prepared and presented beautifully) and lastly, the ONLY restaurant calamari I will order. As a fisherman/diver, this calamari is unbelievable! If you are at a table of four and plan to share, 2 of your tablemates will resent you later. Though an ample serving, you just can't stop eating it! On my recent visit I ordered a burger (ok, if you live here, you will understand how important a good burger becomes) It was stinkin' delicious. The beef was lean and well seasoned without trying to cover up natural flavor. Full contingent of garnish (including pickles!!!) and assorted condiments--even dijon! My friends ordered the beef (mouthwatering and perfectly prepared), tuna (ordered rare and seared expertly to seal in flavor and maintain the delicate flavor of fresh caught yellow tail), and shrimp--yum. We all shared bites as each had a hard time choosing and wanted to know what the other had. Everything was incredible.
We arrived in time for the 2X1 drinks, which were well prepared and promptly served. My only complaint... why aren't those delicious mojitos in the line-up? Maybe that's a good thing! One thing I noticed about Koki, is that the server and management is very attentive. I'm not complaining about the local custom, just providing observation, but in many restaurants you could sit for a loooooong time wanting another drink, or another order of chips, or a condiment. These folks are top of things without being intrusive. Efficient and professional, while keeping the tranquilo vibe.
Prices are comparable, even good, really. There are cheaper places to eat, to be true, but these folks are a class act. They pay their help well, they pay their taxes and provide all the required employee benefits. So, the cost of fresh food, plus the additional 23% in taxes and tips, add up to a burden for businesses that play by the rules. But... it's worth it and for the amount, quality, and experience, a bargain.
Lastly, I send my charter fishing guests there with their catch, and know that it is a place where my guests will be treated consistently well. The charge will be in line with the cost of expertly preparing a fresh catch, providing an appropriate selection of side dishes and options for seasonings or sauces. The guests can gaze upon the boat that took them out on the sea that enchants them. It's a perfect end for our guests to relish their day in the magical Caribe Sur.
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