Restaurant Review – Por Que No

May 1, 2014 update: Well it appears that the Jo/Shelby magic is working. We setup an evening at Por Que No without making a reservation. They couldn’t fit us in!!! The place was packed with what appeared to be very contented diners.

Costa Paraiso / Por Que No is one of the few hotel / restaurants that are actually right next to the waters of the Pacific. All around The Zone, the topography and Costa Rican laws pertaining to the use of land alongside the ocean’s waters have served to limit the amount of commercial development in that zone.

Costa Paraiso has been here longer than I have been here. The original owner somehow managed to get this oh-so-very-desirable position. As you approach the turn-off from the highway, you are essentially driving alongside of the ocean. Then you turn towards the ocean. After you’ve been here for awhile you’ll notice this point since you generally turn away from the ocean to get to where you are going.

Costa Paraiso is a “hotel” that is made up of 5 villas – so what do you call such a thing? A Villotel? Hotilla…? NOT! Ok, well I guess it is known as a hotel, but you get your own villa.

The reception area serves also as the entrance to the restaurant ¿Por Que No? and this is where our story begins.

We dined at ¿Por Que No? the other night. Right now we are in the heart of the rainy season here in Costa Rica. For those of us that live here, it is truly one of the most pleasant times of the year, and I suspect that this fact will become known as time goes by and the popularity of The Zone increases. Rainy season is also known as the “low season” or as us marketers like to call it, the “green season”. It is the time of fewer (but increasing) tourists, and the Dominical area is a verdant green. When we are in the dry season here, us locals may comment on how un-green it is, to which an eavesdropping visitor will respond “what are you – crazy?!? This is the greenest place I’ve ever seen!” – yeah, but not like during rainy season.

OK, so I digress a bit. Back to ¿Por Que No?. Man did we ever have a great dining experience there, thanks to Shelby & Jo, the new management. They live on-premises and make a powerful team for waking up the sleeping giant that Hotel Costa Paraiso and its relatively unknown restaurant ¿Por Que No? has been.

Did I mention the setting? The setting of ¿Por Que No? is unrivalled in the zone, and in very few places on the planet. You are sitting in an open air terrace alongside the Pacific Ocean.. The wrap-around patio has been remodeled and is oriented such that you can watch the wave-play on the rocks, just meters away, while you dine. The wave-sound doesn’t intrude on the conversation but provides the background accompaniment for your meal.

Jo is a vibrant and awfully-nice-to-look-at gal from Canada. She has a marketing background. I suspect that the rather quiet presence that Costa Paraiso has had over the years is going to get transformed from her being here.

Shelby is a chef with a rather impressive pedigree. He has trained in the culinary arts in such prestigious locals as London, Amsterdam, Key West, Nelson BC, French Alps & Morocco. Forget the pedigree however. Its not necessary. Taste the food and you’ll know.

The menu at ¿Por Que No? is the type that I typically hate. You know how it is when you sit down at a restaurant and scan the menu. Frequently this experience is met with the usual and mundane, so you zero in on the one item that calls your attention and go with that. Easy, right? Well, this was not my experience there at ¿Por Que No? as I scanned. “Scan” turned into “study”. This in turn results in having to tell the waiter that you need “just a few more minutes” as you try and decide because there are several options all of which truly must be experienced, and life is just oh-so-short, so how do I manage this?

We had the pleasure of Jo accepting our invitation to sit with us. She is a recent arrival to the area. Since we were in “green season” we were the only table and hence got the opportunity to sit and get acquainted. Jo is eager to know some of the local color and we were eager to know the obvious energy behind the transformation that is happening there at Por Que No.

¿Por Que No? has been there for a couple of years, but I had never been there. Frankly, the street-talk about the place in the past was not compelling, which explains why this was my first visit to the restaurant. More recently the street-talk has been changing to the superlatively positive, and so has caught my interest. Such is life in the small town setting of Dominical and the rest of The Zone. Street-talk is the life (or death) of a business here.

Its not that I haven’t ever been there. When it was just Costa Paraiso, the hotel, I used to stop by and chat with Desi, the original owner of the place. Then another couple bought it, but there wasn’t a restaurant there. Now, the current owners (Steve, Bob & Leslie from Canada) have made the recent changes that take full advantage of the incredible setting.

OK, so back to the menu: I don’t know if Shelby will always be able to offer this type of personalized service (I suspect he will), but he seemed to detect my quandary and so suggested a solution. The special of the night was fish tacos, served with about 4 different and exotic sauces. He offered to make a sampler plate. The fish were Mahi-Mahi and Red Snapper – prepared 3 different ways: blackened (coffee spice blend) mahi mahi with mango salsa, tempura snapper with chipotle cole slaw and panco crusted snapper with avocado chimi churri.

The meal was topped off with a very picturesque desert, hand-made by Shelby (see pic). The man takes obvious pride in his dishes.

I think you’re getting the picture. It was great. They have an international selection of wines to accompany the evening. Fresh fruit smoothies and espresso are available as well.

¿Por Que No? is getting a reputation as a great dining establishment. They are open for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

I am hearing good things about the pizza. They have a wood fired pizza oven there. I haven’t yet tried them, but intend to do so. I’m interested to see what a pizza prepared by a chef of Shelby’s caliber is like.

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