San José

50Best Accolades
  • The Best Restaurant in Costa Rica 2023

Preserving Costa Rica’s indigenous culinary heritage


On the Pass

Pablo Bonilla

Pastry Chef

María José Jimenez

Why should I go? Having travelled around Costa Rica to get to know the Central American country’s diverse gastronomic heritage from its indigenous communities, chef Pablo Bonilla interprets traditional ingredients, recipes that have been orally handed down and culinary techniques at Sikwa. The first restaurant in the country to ever be voted into the list, Sikwa is breaking boundaries and blazing a singular trail.

About the chef: Born and raised in Costa Rica, Bonilla relentlessly traversed his home country, getting closer to indigenous communities such as the Bribis and Cabécares to document them for his pioneering research project. The endeavour later took on a physical form in the shape of Sikwa, which opened in 2018 – the chef prefers to call it a “research centre for Costa Rican gastronomic education” rather than a restaurant.

What’s in a name? Sikwa means a non-indigenous person or foreigner in Bribri, a Chibchan indigenous language that is spoken in the Isthmo-Colombian region of Central America.

Giving back: Part of the project has been creating a virtuous circle so that Indigenous farmers and producers form part of the production chain, selling their ingredients not only to Sikwa but also to other restaurants in San José.

On the menu: Taking a casual approach, many dishes are designed for eating with your hands, such as the Tamal de Yuca made with creamed cassava, or the crunchy pork ribs, fried cassava, spicy yellow corn atole, guacamole and Bagaces cheese. For mains, order the pejibaye (peach palm) tamal with pork belly in chilipinol adobo sauce, mashed beans and wild coriander, or Arroz Gaucho rice with the catch of the day and mussels.