Ah, Costa Rica! This past spring my sister and I vacationed in Santa Teresa, on the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. We’d heard so many wonderful things about the landscape, the animals – its natural beauty. It was all of that, and more. The ‘more’ being our luck in meeting the owner of Sapoa Adventures and also Executive Chef at the Hotel Casa Chameleon – Pabro Sanchez. Being ‘foodies’ ourselves, not only loving to cook but also appreciative of a well done dish or meal, we had the good fortune to meet Pabro as our hiking guide. He was amazingly knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, plus the animals and birds of Costa Rica. He was quite educated about the history and archeology of the area, as well the history of the people of Costa Rica. While hiking the Cabo Blanco National Park and in the midst of telling us about the dry tropical rain forest, he began to talk about his love of cooking indigenous foods. My sister and I had just done a cooking vacation in Arizona the previous month, and this piqued our interest. Pabro invited us to dine at Hotel Casa Chameleon in Mal Pais, where he is the Executive Chef, and so that very evening we did so. To say we were blown away is an understatement. We thought we had lucked out with such an intelligent and educated tour guide, but could he also be a great chef? We could tell from our hiking discussion just how passionate he was about cooking indigenous foods, but to see him in action preparing them at the Hotel Casa Chameleon’s outdoor restaurant was quite the treat. We were invited to sit near the bar area and were able to watch him cook firsthand. He answered all of our questions as he worked, explaining what he was doing as he prepared his savory dishes. We were presented with the most wonderful artistic gastronomic creations! We started with mussels (something I’d never had) in a fresh coconut soup of sorts, with a layering of fresh ingredients. I’m not sure all that was in it, but it was to die-for-delicious and innovatively presented. Our main dish was sea bass, and I believe a fresh melon risotto with green onion oil drizzled on top. We had something pumpkin for dessert, which was light and delicate. We walked away frankly being very pleasantly surprised at our find. Pabro doesn’t just use the most fresh ingredients (fish caught that day), but the combinations he creates are highly imaginative, with flavors that juxtaposition into the simply delicious. Luckily for my sister and me, we had planned a snorkeling day trip also and Pabro was our guide a second time! In the midst of snorkeling, he asked us if we wanted to fish, and we ended up catching four huge tuna! Who would cook them for us? That night we went back to the Hotel Casa Chameleon, and Pabro turned our tuna into 3 versions of Ceviche (all unique and mouthwatering), and our main entrée was our tuna prepared with crushed coffee beans, chili flakes, and pistachio nuts, topped with caramelized onions, served with fresh pumpkin, and drizzled with green onion oil. I’d go back to Costa Rica just to eat his food – seriously! It is that unique and delicious. I honestly don’t know all the nuance ingredients Pabro used in the delights we ate, but if dishes like pan seared sea bass, shrimp and fresh melon risotto, with green onion oil; wasabi crusted seared tuna, with caramelized basmati topped with spicy mango chutney; or spicy mussels and red snapper soup, in fresh coconut milk and julienne vegetables sound delectable to you too - head to Costa Rica and Hotel Casa Chameleon in Mal Pais. I know Pabro Sanchez would offer up the same personable hospitality, educated knowledge and history of his country, and delicious beyond what you could image, indigenous foods of Costa Rica. If Pabro Sanchez came to the US, and let’s say opened a restaurant in Chicago (my home town) – he’d have a 3 Star restaurant in a heartbeat!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Chosen as one of the "Best 101 Hotels in the World" by Conde Nast Publications' Tatler Travel Guide, Casa Chameleon hotel Mal Pais is a favorite with honeymooners and couples looking to relax and unwind in an enchanted adult only environment. Casa Chameleon is vacation as it should be: a warm welcome, rich privacy, authentic experiences, and endless adventure. Regardless of which Casa Chameleon Hotel you find yourself enjoying, you can count on handcrafted cultural experiences and endless adventure. At each Casa Chameleon property, it is our priority to help you slip seamlessly into the best of local tradition and cuisine-from cooking fresh-caught seafood side by side with our in-house chefs to paddling the coastline to sipping a nightcap in your private pool. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Casa Chameleon Mal Pais
- Casa Chameleon Hotel Costa Rica/Mal Pais