Saturday, September 29, 2007

Thai food, and it's a small country after all

Today we went and did our big shopping day, first stopping at PriceSmart (the equivalent of Costco or Sam's Club in the U.S., but with not nearly as good a selection of stuff). I was out of my mind thrilled to find Morningstar Farms "sausage" patties in the freezer section. A box of 24 at PriceSmart is about the same as two boxes of 6 at Auto Mercado. I even did a happy dance in the aisle, to which my son started yelling, "No dancing, Mommy!" He's such a party pooper. No singing, either, unless he's the one doing the singing and dancing. I guess he thinks his parents are too old for such foolishness; where he gets these notions, I have no idea. On the way out, we saw our friends D&M, whom we don't get to see much of these days, as D has a new job and their daughter C is in preschool, leaving M to be at the house when she comes home, and thus not able to bring little E to playgroup. Unfortunately. Because we all like them very much. Especially our son, who simply adores C. For a while, he was saying things like, "She's not my friend, she's my girlfriend." Oh. A three-year-old has a girlfriend? Anyway, as soon as he saw her his face lit up like a Christmas tree. I think it's nice, actually, that they are such good friends at a young age; I know I didn't really make any close friends until I was in first or second grade. When we move out to Grecia, we'll be a little closer to them, and hopefully we'll all get to see a bit more of each other.

After PriceSmart, we went to try a new restaurant in Escazu called Lemon Grass. Or Lemongrass, I'm not really sure if it's one word or two. It was pretty busy for a rainy Saturday afternoon, so we had high hopes. And, in fact, another couple and their kids who used to come to our little cafe in Ciudad Colon were there eating, and they asked us to join them. We got the "Thai room," which is basically a built-up bench seat surrounding a table. I didn't like it so much, because unlike a tatami room at a Japanese restaurant, this was hard to get in and out of, and my feet dangled. Anyway. The menus only had a few vegetarian things on it, and of course esposo the chef had to grill the waiter on whether or not the curry had shrimp paste (it did), what didn't have fish sauce or shrimp paste in it, did the food have MSG, etc. Basically, it turned out we could get the steamed spring rolls, Thai fried rice (no eggs), and Pad Thai vegetarian without fish sauce/shrimp paste. Rather limited for vegetarians. So, we had all of the above. I have to say, the rice was very good, and the Pad Thai was excellent. The spring rolls not so much. I think they would be better fried or just without being steamed (with the rice paper wrappers softened in hot water only). The steaming made the wrappers mushy and kinda gross. I also had a nice pot of Chinese gunpowder tea (delish), and later a lemongrass iced tea (way too sweet for my tastes). (If you go and don't want to get stomach cancer, ask for the food to be made without MSG, as the chef puts it in everything. It's called "ajinomoto" in Costa Rican Spanish, FYI. But "glutamato monosodico" on a label. And Costa Ricans put it in everything.) It took us forever and a day to actually get our check, which came to $30 for basically two people (our son shared with us), including a couple of beers and a fruit punch. We thought the prices were pretty high, as did our dining companions, who were charged $14 for two plates of rice and grilled chicken for their kids (young kids, maybe 2 and 4 years old). Lunch for the four of them came to $60. Ouch. She also had the vegetarian Pad Thai, and he had a basil chicken dish. We all did like the food, though, so at least we weren't being pinched for crappy food. In fact, esposo and I both agreed it was the best Pad Thai we've had in this country by far, Tin Jo included. (Well, actually, esposo thinks his Pad Thai is better, but I liked Lemon Grass's better.)

Pad Thai

Thai fried rice -- it looks more boring than it tasted!

An $8 kid's plate of chicken and plain white rice.

Overall, I'd say it's worth checking out, if you don't mind the high prices and, if you're a vegetarian, the lack of selection. We will probably go back, though not too often, on account of both the high prices and the fact that there are only a couple of things on the menu we can eat. And really, is it so difficult to make vegetarian Thai food? When we lived in beautiful Santa Cruz, California, there were at least four Thai restaurants (that I can think of, probably there were more) just in the close vicinity of our house. All of them had an extensive selection of vegetarian choices. Granted, there are probably a lot more vegetarians in Santa Cruz than there are in Costa Rica, but there are still plenty of us here as well. It seems like most restaurants just throw us a bone, and don't really make any effort. Which is too bad for them, because really, we vegetarians generally enjoy going out to eat and patronizing restaurants that have food we like. On the Lemon Grass menu, for example, there are a whole five things listed under "Vegetarian," and one of those has shrimp paste, another has oyster sauce, which actually leaves only three edible things on the menu. When we had our cafe, we had quite a small army of loyal customers who came because we had lots of great vegetarian and vegan food and it was pretty easy on your wallet. Vegetarians are always looking for restaurants that show we're not an afterthought. Lemon Grass certainly gives you the impression that we're not really worth their time. And don't even get me started on Bangkok in Sabana. Bleh. I hate that place. If you are a vegetarian, you can basically order nothing from their "vegetarian" menu, because it all has shrimp paste. And even when one bothers asking, one still gets food with shrimp paste, and when one tells one's waiter that one can't eat one's food, one's waiter refuses to take it off the bill, even though it was one's waiter's fault in the first place. So you can see why I hate Bangkok and will never eat their again, and tell everyone I know not to eat there, either, and what absolutely terrible service we had.

You have to be really careful with vegetarian food here, because to many Costa Ricans, that still means you can eat chicken, fish, anything but beef.

Next week, we'll go to Lubnan in San Jose, which, while meaty, is an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans, and the prices are also quite good. You can get a vegetarian feast for around $12. I'll take pics and write about that later.


  1. Do you have the address/phone? I had thai for the first time in SLC and got hooked, and wasn't aware there was a thai restaurant here in CR.
    Do they serve thai iced tea? I'm craving that so bad!

  2. If you are familiar with the Paco area of Escazu, it's right across the street on the road going up to Jaboncillo/downtown Escazu. Next door to Chez Cristophe. I might have a phone number; I'll check in my wallet for a card and get back to you. If you go, please let me know what you think of it, as it's been two years since we visited! (If you happen to go for dinner, try drinks afterward at Misala across the street in the Paco center, where the Italian place used to be. Great atmosphere; I love the food but my chef esposo didn't like it very much.)

  3. Oh and to answer your question: Yes, I do believe they serve Thai iced tea! I love Thai iced tea also, yum!

  4. One more thing: You might also try Tin Jo. They have a fair selection of Thai food on their menu as well. Check out the menu here: