When you order El Tigre Verde’s juice called the Sámara Farmacia, it tastes like you’ve added a year to your life. The bright orange potion is refreshing and filling, packed with natural sugars from carrot, pineapple, orange, parsley, turmeric and ginger.
“This helps with all my problems,” said Virginie Dostie, juicer extraordinaire, as she handed us the drink.
Originally from Quebec, Dostie realized she was lactose intolerant in her early 20s. Her health improved as she changed what she ate, which meant she needed to relearn how to cook according to her new regimen.
Wanting less city and more nature, Dostie moved to Sámara in September 2016 with two cats, some clothes and luggage full of cooking utensils. She founded El Tigre Verde as a gluten- and lactose-free restaurant last year, catering to her own food needs while providing healthy, locally sourced food to her new community.
Her wholesome cuisine isn’t just a trend for moneyed travelers, Dostie has found. She also feeds locals who appreciate dairy-free meals (ranging from $5 to $11). Her Tico partner Jose Cordero Suazo helps her in the kitchen, where they wear their hair in buns as they swap smiles and vegetables.
Dostie side-steps dairy by frying ingredients with coconut and sunflower oil. She uses the latter to make a fried plantain bun for the hearty Super Sandwich that’s stuffed with seasoned, juicy shrimp. All sandwiches are served with slightly spicy mayo.
The mouthwatering Ceviche Mexicano rivals the best of Guanacaste’s beach towns –salty, tart and laced with ribbons of red onion. A side of crisp plantain chips helps scoops up smears of guacamole, which tempers the salt. Dostie says all fish comes freshly caught in the morning, meaning the type of fish can based on the day’s catch.
One of the most impressive dishes The Voice tried was the Tartar De Lujo – tartare “deluxe.” Soft chunks of fresh fish are mixed with slivered almonds and cranberries, which offers a surprising texture. Striped with a reduction of balsamic vinegar, this tangy platter makes a delicious lunch on its own.
Dostie hand-painted the cheery tropical aesthetic of kitchen and outdoor seating with leafy greens and pineapple motifs. With low-level tables stocked with children’s books, El Tigre Verde is a welcome spot for families opting for fresh food.
While The Voice waited for our lunch, a mustachioed man in a cowboy hat swaggered up to the counter. “Don Bigote,” he called himself, just arrived from picking limes in the mountains. He unloaded his bag of electric green citrus into Dostie’s hands. The limes radiated their scent before they were even sliced.
Minutes later, we squeezed a slice over a heap of ceviche. Not that our meal needed more seasoning – the expert chefs took care of that.