A Taste for the Exotic – Dining at the Lapa Rios Rainforest Lodge

Visiting Lapa Rios Rainforest Lodge on Costa Rica’s wild Osa Peninsula had a tsunami-sized effect on my city-dulled senses. I visited the little Central American nation last January determined to find out what all the fuss was about. Why is Costa Rica so darn popular these days? Is the jungle really all that it’s cracked up to be?

Upon arrival, I have to admit, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of it all. The rainforest was just so alive and brilliant, the animals, so abundant and each species was so diverse and profoundly unique. Iguanas donning luminous mosaics of scales, countless jewel-colored macaws squawking at each other in the treetops, and shy but curious monkeys watching from the branches with eerily humanlike gazes… It was something else.

A trip for the taste buds

I had heard that Costa Rica wasn’t exactly a foodie’s dream come true – rice n beans and beans n rice. So, I didn’t expect that I’d be so surprised by the freshness and flavors I found at Lapa Rios.

The hotel has recently undergone a change in ownership, and the new proprietors—local Costa Rican’s with years of eco-luxury experience under their belts—have taken it upon themselves to bring new life and variety to the menus.

I happened to be at the lodge when the new “Lapa’s chef” came to design the menus and work with the local staff of blossoming chefs. Many of whom are from nearby communities and receive expert training and guidance as part of the Lapa Rio’s community empowerment initiatives.

International talent meets the tropics

Greece-born Chef, George Belesis, spent considerable time at Pacuare Lodge (Lapa Rios’s sister-lodge) before migrating his talent and creativity to the Osa Peninsula. He brought with him his considerable experience as an international gourmand and a passion for unlocking the potential found in locally sourced produce, meats, and dairy.

Belesis was accompanied by pastry chef Helena from Greece. Together they redesigned the lodge’s offerings and added a mouthwatering assortment of insanely flakey and delicious pastries. The breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert menus were all revamped, as well as concocting new health-laden smoothies and knock-your-socks-off cocktails.

My personal favorites

During my five-day stay, I made sure to explore not only the breathtaking beaches and rainforest outside but also the food and fantastic wines and cocktails in the lodge. It was my vacation after all.

My favorite dishes from the new menus included the Fresh Tuna Tartare starter. Belesis put a spin on the classic by adding crunchy green papaya, asparagus, and a touch of radish to the freshly caught tuna tossed in a coconut-ginger dressing.
For the main course, I was tied between a vegetarian grilled Cauliflower Steak with wild rice and a yogurt tahini sauce option, and the melt in your mouth boneless loin and rack of Costa Rican lamb served with eggplant puree, potatoes confit, lemon emulsion, and an Osa vanilla-flavored jus!

The winner dessert was everything decadent in Costa Rica’s cuisine: a milk chocolate mousse, macadamia nuts cake with Costa Rican coffee Chantilly. Finished off with a glass of wine from their impressive list of international varietals, and I was indeed in tropical bliss!

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