Pura Vida (685 Lansdowne, at Bloor, 416-915-0097) Complete meals for $20, including all taxes, tip and a beer. Average main $12.50. Kitchen open Monday, Wednesday to Thursday 11:30 am to 10 pm; Friday to Sunday 11:30 am to 11 pm. (Bar stays open later). Closed Tuesday. Licensed. Access: four steps up to the door. Rating: NNN
As the lone customer on a snowy afternoon, I receive intermittent attention at Pura Vida because the server is enthralled with Pretty Woman, playing on a huge-screen TV.
But to her credit, she does politely conceal any astonishment she might feel when I, like a glutton, order three apps and three mains.
Fish ceviche ($7.95) is an invigorating amalgam of lime, cilantro, tomato, onion and juicy morsels of white fish. Avocado salad ($5.50) is nearly a whole avocado sliced and served with lettuce and tomato, but, sadly, accompanied by a bottled Italianish dressing.
Molletes Pura Vida ($3.95) features tasty "refried" beans (though they've never been fried, let alone refried), sour cream, cheese, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, tomato and onion, piled on two "naked wheat buns." Strange name, but the thing's delish.
Mains are served with beans, oily rice, lettuce and tomato. Costa Rican-style rice with shrimp ($12.95) offers nine delicate shrimp (a more finicky deveining and they'd be even better) tossed in a heap of tomato-broth-soaked rice with veggies.
The mole ($12.95) is so under-salted, it hardly tastes like even one of its 40 ingredients, and the sauce coats a tiny portion of dried-out chicken bits. Instead, pick up the ingredients at Pura Vida's adjacent grocery store to try making a better mole yourself.
Enchiladas Suisas ($8.95) with Diablo Sauce consists of two corn tortillas topped with tender chicken pieces smothered in rich, mildly spicy sauce, cheese and sour cream all baked to perfection.
They make it worth the trip!