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Pura Vida is a Costa Rican expression that means “Pure Life” or “Life is Great” The Food at Pura Vida happens to be great too. The menu is all tapas (nothing is over $10) which I think is not only a good choice for group dining but it is also a great date spot. Not to mention Chef Santiago, was a Cheftestant on Top Chef this past season. And in my opinion, was booted off waaay too early!
The food is so fresh and flavorful. And Pura Vida has such interesting pairings of ingredients. Think mahi-mahi and chorizo skewers with banana mustard. Or how about this – hearts of palm coated in a coconut vinaigrette with dates, Serrano ham, and tres leches yogurt? Those were some of the first flavors I ever tasted at Pura Vida. Everything I’ve ever had was phenomenal. However, based on the menu I wouldn’t recommend that you take a “meat and potatoes” crowd to Pura Vida.
If you can’t figure it out, Pura Vida is one of my Atlanta faves and has been for several years. Last year, I went there about 3 times in a period of about 2 months.
One one of those visits, we began with a Pisco Sour. If you aren’t familiar with a Pisco Sour, Pisco is is a type of liquor from Peru and the Pisco Sour (made with egg whites and bitters) is the unofficial drink of Peru. Having visited Peru the prior year, and having many, many of these I was really looking forward to having one again. They were ok, but certainly not going to make you a Pisco Sour lover. So, we moved onto wine. I hear they make a mean mojito, which I’ll be sure to check out on my next visit.
Although all “meals” are technically tapas, some lend themselves more the “appetizer” side and some are more the “mains” side. On all visits we tend to place an order for a couple items to start and a couple to share for our main meal. Some starters were the malanga root chips (bottom left), shrimp coctel and calamari (bottom right).
The shrimp coctel (yes, that’s how they spell it), is delicious and one of my favorites with it’s diablo sauce and butternut squash squares, is the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. And the calamari is a unique presentation (unfried) and very fresh to be served that way. The root chips had a great, flavorful cremini mushroom sauce too, which surprisingly was not too heavy or filling and would be an excellent choice for sharing with a large group.
We also tried a trout ceviche, which didn’t excite me too much. However, I would love to try the tofu ceviche, for which Chef Santiago got high praises for while on Top Chef and is now featured on his regular menu.
For the second order placed, we decided to order the steamed coconut buns, which didn’t disappoint. The light, fluffy, and yes, steamy buns pair well with the pork belly inside. And the duck confit was also equally matched with plantains. I would never have thought those two ingredients would be such a pleasurable flavor but they were.
And on another visit we tried the goat mofongo. If you are a lamb lover, don’t be afraid to give this one a try. The taste is somewhat similar. I was told by our server that it is one of the most popular dishes that regulars like to order. And, after sampling it, I can see why. The slow cooked goat with coconut and banana is oh so tender, slightly sweet and spiced just right with a couple drops of diablo sauce which accompanies your meal.
For dessert, don’t miss the house made ice cream. Even if it’s cold outside, this is a real treat. We had the banana ice cream and it is amazing how much the flavor comes through. The chocolate flan brulee as it’s called, is also tasty and great with a glass of red wine.
The service here has always been top notch too. It seems much more authentic and a cut above other tapas bars like Elclipse di Luna and Loca Luna. Pura Vida is less noisy, the service is better and the food is a much higher quality.
Want to be able to cook some of the dishes son the menu? They have cooking classes once a month with different menu features.
Extras: There is free parking on the side street adjacent to the restaurant. And it is located very close to Fernbank, so it is a great choice for date night at Martinis and Imax.
656 N Highland Ave.