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Maza Bistro - San José

I didn’t know the word “brunch” was in the Costa Rican vernacular. And maybe it isn’t a word yet known nationwide, but Frederico Lizano, the owner of Maza Bistro, hopes to make it so.

 

He’s headed in the right direction with his casual oasis of a restaurant, perfect for daytime, outdoor eating. Instead of walls, Maza’s dining room has flower trellises. Replacing a thousand-dollar espresso machine is a chorreador, the traditional Costa Rican coffee maker, sort of like a rustic pour over.

 

Lizano’s goal is to take Costa Ricans and visitors alike beyond soda lunch counters and into a world of flavorful food, where Costa Rican fruits are embraced and imported spices highlight beloved Latin American specialties.

 

Since we had already eaten appetizers at the organic market where Lizano buys some of Maza’s produce, we didn’t have room for much. However, we did the Lord’s work and ordered bloody marys, crafted by Liz Furlong of Bebedero, to start. We then tacked on the killer toast (which Lizano recommended), a pupusa and a gargantuan bowl of fried brussels sprouts and yuca.

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The brioche killer toast’s texture could have benefitted from a longer coconut milk bath before being griddled, but the taste was incredible. The char on the outside paired nicely with just-picked local grapefruit, strawberries, mango and mint.

 

The whole-fried brussels sprouts and sliced yuca were tossed in rich aioli with a handful of pungent herbs. The dish was advertised as an appetizer but could have served as a meal in itself.

 

Maza’s take on the Salvadorean pupusa was the star of the show. Two airy, thick corn pancakes were layered with refried black beans, doused in spicy red salsa and topped with crumbled queso fresco, sliced avocado, thick-cut bacon and a soft egg, whose yolk coated the pupusa like syrup on a pancake.

 

Service at Maza was a bit slow, if only because the restaurant was full within minutes of opening on a sunny Saturday morning. The restaurant’s popularity speaks for itself. The food is well-priced, and the menu is just large enough to confound guests for a moment before they land on a sublime selection of thoughtful, well crafted dishes.

-Mary Clay Kline