A Chef’s Dream Villa in Costa Rica

LOS PARGOS, Costa Rica — Impassable in spots during much of the rainy season, the dirt road to this village on the northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is a rutted, dust-spewing monster during the dry months. It is, as a friend once said, a “bone-jarring skunk of a road.”

Until recently, visitors willing to make the journey were mostly surfers attracted by the world-class left-hand surf break at the nearby Playa Negra beach. These days, dedicated diners swerve and bump their way toward a discreet white sign for Villa Deevena.

Through a door in a featureless whitewashed wall is a different world: fine china and crystal, a minimalist open-air dining room and an open kitchen. Cooks mince ginger and fresh basil, sear fresh fillets of snapper in fragrant olive oil and create little towers of goat cheese and roasted beet slices. Opposite the kitchen, a shaded courtyard with six svelte hotel rooms surrounds a long pool.

The setup is reminiscent of the classic auberges of southern France, small inns deep in the countryside that are worth visiting for an amazing dinner and an overnight stay. Here in rural Costa Rica, there are howler monkeys in the trees, and guests can stroll down a dirt path to the ocean and go surfing. It all feels like a kind of fever dream.

Villa Deevena opened in 2009, and it is the very real dream of the chef Patrick Jamon and his wife, Tasia. The restaurant and grounds were designed by Ms. Jamon, and built under her supervision.

Atypically for this area, the cooking — classic French with flavors from all over Asia — emphasizes local, tropical ingredients grown, caught or gathered near the restaurant. Sautéed grouper fillets are bathed in a coconut curry and served with a carrot-ginger mousseline; chanterelles are stuffed into ravioli with sage; lobster is served with ponzu sauce and a crown of avocado; orange duck is made with mandarins, from a tree outside the restaurant, and a bit of ginger.

Mr. Jamon, originally from the city of Valence in southern France, started working at age 14 at Restaurant Pic, now renamed Anne-Sophie Pic, for its chef. He went on to culinary school in Paris, returned home, married Ms. Jamon and started a family.

He was ready. As happens with many successful chefs, Mr. Jamon was spending more time managing than cooking, his chef’s whites almost more costume than uniform. “I was missing my people, missing the headaches,” he said. “So we moved here, and I got plenty of headaches.”

Today the headaches are pretty much over. Ms. Jamon, the couple’s son Dean and his wife, Joya, all work at the restaurant and live down the street. Guests routinely trek to the restaurant from San José, five hours away by car, as well as from New York, Los Angeles and Paris.

Ms. Jamon, with her charm and puckish humor, makes the restaurant feel like a home. For Christmas in 2009, after their move from Los Angeles, there was a fully decorated tree hanging upside down from the ceiling. “Everything in the world seems upside down,” she said, “so I decided to match it.”

“I feel like I’m living 50 years ago, the way I used to live in my village in southern France,” Mr. Jamon said. He picks fruit from the trees, gathers porcini and chanterelle mushrooms in the woods, grows root vegetables and raises goats to make his own cheese on his farm up in the hills. A friend grows organic microgreens for him in a plot behind the restaurant.


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