San Jose, Costa Rica: La Sorbetera de Lolo Moro – The only A+ rating I’ve ever given
Since 1901 the same family, has been making the same ice cream, at the same location in the Central Market. A small counter is surrounded by about a dozen never-empty stools.
There is only one flavor … vanilla.
But when something is perfect you don’t need more.
Here's what I had rated from A+ to F -
VANILLA ICE CREAM: A + … Beyond exceptional, food of the gods
I like what this blog said about the ice cream because it captures it perfectly
“Made with crushed vanilla beans, it teases the tongue with overtones of nutmeg and cinnamon.”
I don’t know how it is made, but the vanilla flavor is pure and beautiful. It is lighter than ice cream, the consistency of melty ice cream or a thick shake with large ice crystals. There is a shave ice quality about it, but it is creamy like ice cream.
I sat down at the counter without knowing anything about the shop and asked what flavors they sold … heh.
The sign reads “Nuestros tradicionales helados”. I assumed the plural implied more than one flavor. It means "Our traditional flavor." … vanilla … which was pure, simple, perfection.
After not really being clear on what was being said, I said “si” to the only type they ever make. They have ice cream cones, but I never saw anyone order it in a cone.
The intense, complex taste combined with the wonderful texture … it made me an instant fan.
GRANIZADO: B - … Very good
They sell a few other items such as cherry granizados (shave ice) which had a cherry gelatin flavor. It was good, but nowhere near the ambrosial ice cream
A lot of people ordered the cherry granizado topped with the ice cream.
There is also the option of adding leche to the granizado. I assume it is condensed milk. Another combination includes both ice cream and leche.
The servers never touch money. They pass a silver metal bowl where to put the cash, someone else rings up the order and the change is returned to the bowl.
This was the common practice at all the shops in the Central Market. I can’t remember if Lola Mora was one of the shops that used clear, plastic disposable gloves to handle the food, but the sanitary standards both here and in every shop in the market were very meticulous.
The ice is shaved to order by hand. It is more of a course ice, rather than smooth and slushy. It takes a while to enjoy this cool confection.
They sell a few other items: cherry gelatin, refrescos de leche (liquados), refrescos de agua (aqua fresca), fresh fruit salad, queque (cake) and barquillos (rolled wafer cookies like Pepperidge Farm pirouettes).
The gelatin and fruit salad could be ordered with ice cream and were served in banana split dishes.
Refresco de leche flavors include: Mora (blackberry), papaya, banana, horchata, cebada (barley?). I think you can have ice cream included in the liquado, making it a shake.
Refresco de agua flavors include: Linaza (linseed?), tamarindo, cas (a type of tart guava), pineapple, blackberry and fruit.
In my opinion, if you have only place to stop in San Jose, Costa Rica, this is it.
I’m reluctant to over praise something because everyone’s taste varies and raised expectations often lead to disappointment … so, your mileage may vary.
For me, that first taste was magic.
From what I’ve read, this was the first ice cream shop in Costa Rica. Generation after generation of Costa Ricans have made La Sorbetera de Loa Mora a regular stop. In all that time, they never changed a thing.
It is humble counter … nothing special about it … except the ice cream.
Restaurant record with more info such as address
Flickr photostream with more pictures (actually no extra photos currently, but I have a photo of the counter somewhere, I think).
"The sign reads “Nuestros tradicionales helados”. I assumed the plural implied more than one flavor. It means "Our traditional flavor." … vanilla …"
No, that translates as "our traditional icecreams." Helado is icecream. Helados is the plural of it.
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Had their ice cream just yesterday. The guy at the counter listed at least 7 or 8 ingredients (did my bad Spanish ear hear pumpkin correctly?) I think the shaved ice quality that I noticed (that you had previously mentioned) sort of turned me off and I had to think of the ice cream as a shaved ice treat in order to judge the flavoring fairly.
Overall, Costa Rica was a pretty dark hole of nothing when it came to food. After a number of spectacular failures, we ended up being so afraid to try restaurants that serve non-tico food and just opted for repeated casados for most meals - which are usually better than the non-tico items that they also advertise on the menu.
What were some of the places you didn't like? Did you eat seafood? One of Costa Ricas claim to fame is ceviches. However, I've heard it is where you are. San Jose is a pretty cosmopolitan city with cafes, upscale restaurants and the usual chains. The upscale aren't as over the top as in Panama City.
The guy I met who clued me in on the seafood and ceviche, lived in a small town where there was only Costa Rican food. He mentioned some of what he liked, and then spike lovingly of going to San Jose and eating at Applebee's
Out of all the non-tico offerings, I think Peruvian and Argentinian come to closest to being good. But it just lacks in preparation, ingredients, etc. (especially at the First World prices they're charging).
I just get the feeling that they don't have much of a foodie culture down there - given the massive invasion and acceptance of American fast food (and I see dressed up couples going there for dates on Friday nights, so it's not just for kids). Driving down a stretch of Paseo Colon, it was evident that American chains outnumber local places probably at least 5-to-1. Many of the highly praised places by locals and expats alike turn out to be average at best, and disgustingly awful most of the time - most of them are owned by expats whose food experience seemed to be mostly "personal research".
Although in terms of seafood, I like enjoy the low key preparation of the basses and ceviches, although it's nothing to rave or dream about after coming home. Like I said, I liked the stuff at the sodas generally much more than at actual restaurants. Although I'm sure that had I spent more time in San Jose (it was pretty in and out), I would eventually find something I liked very much.