Restaurant Reviews

 

"Costa Del Sol offers Salvadoran cuisine

Costa Del Sol (Spanish for “sunny coast,” and actually on the Mediterranean coastline of Spain) is not the place you go on a diet.

This is no surprise. But it’s an idea reinforced by the bright orange grease that drips from their “4 beef tacos with guacamole,” or the way their carrate shake sits heavy in the stomach.

Spanish soaps play on the restaurant’s table-propped TV to entertain patrons, or the ostensible owner who is always draped over a few seats. Young waitresses (his daughters?) take care of visitors. Sometimes you have to beckon them politely from the back.

Feels like home. While Indy has a mixed bag of Central and South American businesses and eateries (see “Bienvenidos a Talapolis” cover story by Michael Snodgrass), I’m from San Antonio, a place where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a Mexican restaurant, where it might land in a lardy vat of refried beans, or a pillow of flour tortillas. Costa Del Sol isn’t a Mexican restaurant (it’s Salvadoran, identified by a blue flag lifted from the Internet and pasted on Costa’s laminated menus), but I have enough knowledge of its “cousin” cuisine to know that Del Sol is pretty good.

Let’s dispense with the first impressions: The chips and “salsa,” two Tex-Mex staples, were comprised of Tostitos rounds and store-bought picante sauce. Not the fresh blend of habaneros, garlic, cilantro and other green goodness I had hoped for.

But sour cream replaces hot sauce as the eat-with-everything condiment at Salvadoran Costa Del Sol. That’s smart. It merges well with the creamy, dark refried beans and it complements the perfectly cooked, slightly sweet plantains on the house eggs breakfast plate ($7; the eggs had a bit too much salt).

It also goes well with corn tamales ($1.50) and cheese pupusa ($1.50). These tamales had a thick layer of moist, spongy masa, firm enough to seal the creamy corn filling inside.

Condiments make the pupusa. It’s simply a corn tortilla “stuffed” with melted cheese. Good enough by itself, but a bit plain … the cabbage garnish offers a little contrast in texture.

So far, so good … onto the main event. For a restaurant named for a coastline, water-dwellin’ pickins were slim: On both a Saturday afternoon and Monday night, Costa was out of their fish soup ($10). I opted for the beef tacos with guacamole ($7) and the chicken with rice ($10) dishes instead.

I understand why the dishes were named for their proteins.

The beef came first. It was an exercise in symmetry: four tortilla rounds arranged symmetrically on a plate, on top of which sat small bits of orangish beef. A hodgepodge of pico de gallo (“rooster’s beak”; but probably really named for the chicken’s red plume) and avocado topped each of these.

The menu didn’t say it, but my Mex sense had led me to it anyway: These were tacos al carbon (“of charcoal”), popular Fiesta food (if you ever go to San Antonio, you should check out this two-week excuse to revel in outdoor food and beer booths amid live music and papel picado). I usually consume the petite but thick tacos with orange-tinged pork, small, chopped onions and cilantro inside. The meat is tangy (likely citrus marinated); the onions, crisp and pungent; the thick tortilla marries the tastes together. Cilantro for taste and color. Costa’s version was just like this (sans cilantro). In fact, I’m not really sure their “beef” wasn’t pork. But: Pico de gallo and diced avocado are not guacamole.

Onto the chicken. It was saffron colored. It was juicy and warm inside, but with a slightly crisp tang on the outside — almost like a brick-cooked chicken, where you flatten the poultry with a pan while baking, making the chicken crisp. It’s a simple must-try. The sides were ho-hum: the rice drowned in butter; the beans, not quite memorable.

But the plantain filled with cream, oh my God. It’s a delicate, crisp shell of a plantain, filled with a not-too-thick custard of snow white.

They seem to know their stuff at Costa Del Sol, if the service is a little lax, and the venue is a bit out of the way. But where else can you go for a taste of Central America — and a great seat for telenovelas (where Thalia got her start)!

Costa Del Sol

3839 Moller Road

317-280-0480

Hours

Daily: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Food: Three and a half stars

Atmosphere: Two stars

Service: Two stars

Nonsmoking

Recommended dishes: chicken with rice, corn tamales, plantain filled with cream

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