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"Marisqueria Jiuberths: Quepos, Costa Rica"

Aqua
by Mary Heebner

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS: "My love of fish goes into everything that I do!" exclaimed Jiuberth (pron. Hubert) Rojas, the owner and chef of the restaurant that touts it is "Unico en Quepos con marisco fresco". Jiuberth comes from a family of fishermen and five years ago, with a partner, his wife, and a few of his friends, he opened Jiuberth's Marisqueria. Every day his friends set out around 4am in their pongas. Their catch is the day's menu, and it is always fresh and plentiful. Jiuberths is open for business at 3pm, every day of the week.

TYPICAL CLIENTELE: Sun-weathered fishermen stop by for a Vuelve a la Vida (mixed shellfish cocktail) and a cold beer in the late afternoon after work and banter with Jiuberth as he is shucking, peeling and prepping for the dinner crowds. Most of the diners are Ticos (Costa Ricans); families, couples dressed up for a night out, and a handful of tourists.

GRUB AND GROG: Top of the line is the mariscada – an embarrassment of Neptune's riches caught that day and served on a Thanksgiving-sized platter - shrimps, lobster, octopus, mussels, clams, squid, conch - and you can have it al ajillo (olive oil and mounds of garlic), al picante (spicy tomato sauce), a la plancha (grilled), for 4000 colones or about $16.00. Ceviches, seafood cocktails, conch, grilled fish filets, fish stews, range from $1.50 – $10.00. Call for an ice cold Aguila (Imperial beer with the black eagle on the yellow label) and the bartender will treat you like family. The table wine is a crisp Chilean varietal and the rum is never measured out in a miserly little shot glass.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: The Quepos/ Manuel Antonio area gets plenty of tourists and several restaurants cater to their tastes, from pizzerias to French cuisine. But in my search for fresh, no-hype seafood, each waiter, taxi driver and fisherman I asked said Jiuberth's.

HISTORIC HIGHLIGHT: Jiuberth's is at Boca Vieja, the old river mouth, just past the bridge on the way out of town heading towards Jaco. No address needed. Any taxi driver knows its thatch and tin roof on the corner. Inside, past the wooden string curtains, the Sargasso Sea meets the Ancient Mariner. Jiuberth jubilantly says his artistry spills out of the kitchen and onto the walls, which he has styled into a mutable collage of maritime chotchkes. His wife, friends, and customers continually add to this wealth of mounted shark jaws, dried globe fish, artificial flowers, Christmas lights, buoys, gourds and fishing nets.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WET KIND: Jiuberth's is a stone's throw from the harbor where there is always a steady traffic of fishing and recreational boats. Just 4 miles south of Boca Vieja, Manuel Antonio National Park encompasses 1700 acres of land preserve and 136,000 acres of marine reserve. There's good snorkeling here, at Playa Tres and at Puerto Escondido, which are linked by walking paths. Just up from the park, along a strip of beach scalloped with manzanillo, coco and sea grape, there is decent to excellent surf at Entre los Rocas, and Playitas Break. Also, if you are heading into Quepos after surfing at Jaco, a stop at Jiuberth's on the way into town is a must.

 

Copyright © Mary Heebner 2000