This month’s victim: Daniel Alvarado Salazar, Executive Chef of L’Aqua Viva. Chef Salazar, a native of San Jose, has 15 years of international culinary training and experience, as well as impressive “street creds” with Playa Dominical’s world-class Zona Sur and Hotel Villas Rio Mar. Chef Salazar has been creating nutritious, tropical-inspired delicacies, with his dedicated staff of six, at L’Aqua Viva for 2 years now.
Scene of the crime: L’Aqua Viva, a luscious, tranquil resort and spa in Playa Guiones. L’Aqua Viva is exactly what most people imagine when they come to Costa Rica for an exotic, sophisticated, healthy, lavish, and total mind-body-spirit pampering in the jungle.
The Stolen Recipe: Corvina Flambe (with a side of home-made herb mashed potatoes, creamy garlic carrots, and steamed broccoli)
Before our victim, Chef Salazar, even beings to prepare this succulent, tropical-inspired seafood dish for us, he takes us out to L’Aqua Viva’s organic herb garden where he nurtures basil, oregano, peppers, mint, and such local herbs. Innocently, he invites us back to his immaculate industrial kitchen and sets out the ingredients for his corvina flambé:
Fresh caught corvina (a local white fish that is not very “fishy” tasting—perfect for beginners or people who are not into fish!)
Shot of brandy
Shot of triple sec
To prepare the fish, Chef Salazar cuts the fish into rectangular filets. He rubs some salt on both sides of the fish and then marinates the fish filets in fresh lemon juice. He then flips the filets in a thin coat of wheat flour (which will give the fish some added texture as well as a light crunch), and finally, with a dab of butter, sets the grill on 180 degrees. While the fish is grilling, he sets up the almond salsa!
Almond slices are sautéed in a saucepan of butter. CHEF TRICK: In order to fully sanitize the pan and get out any previous food smells, Chef Salazar heats all his pans on the grill first, and then rinses with water, before putting any new ingredients into the pan. Once the sliced almonds are saturated with butter, Chef Salazar throws in both fish filets. He throws in a shot of brandy and poof! Flambé! Flips the fish over and adds a shot of triple sec! Flambé! By the way, this whole process takes less than 10 minutes!
Simultaneously preparing the corvine flambé, Chef Salazar and his assistant, Teresa Zuniga, create a colorful, healthy palette of fresh veggie side dishes. The presentation of this dish is just plain art.
While Chef Salazar, was not looking, we swiped the house Casa Viva (Central Valley, Chile 2007); a citrus-y, strong Sauvignon Blanc to accompany this light, nutty tasting fish dish. And as if that were not enough, we were spoiled with his favorite dessert, the White Face Monkey (actually a namesake of this dessert showed up in the restaurant while we were eating the dessert!): an extraordinary orange-flambéed banana dish, with a touch of chocolate sauce, grated coconut and vanilla ice cream.