Costa Rican chef Pablo Bonilla has wanted to rescue the roots and secrets of the Costa Rican cuisine through his restaurant Sikwa. This restaurant is located in the famous Escalante neighborhood, in San José and although it initially opened its doors as a healthy street food option, it later found its goal and became the first food site that rescues the country’s indigenous cuisine. Chef Bonilla defines his restaurant as a space to educate and inform about indigenous cuisine, so that ancestral secrets and customs do not disappear, but rather remain in time.
It is worth mentioning that the word Sikwa, which is the restaurant’s name, means a non-indigenous person. And it is that Chef Pablo Bonilla for several years visited native communities and with the help of its inhabitants managed to give life to a menu filled with ingredients and ancestral techniques, which today can be savored in Sikwa. In addition, the menu was renewed two months ago and was developed from the experiences of this recent trip.
To learn a little more about this project that has been in the Costa Rican cuisine market for a few years, Chef Pablo Bonilla answers some questions for TCRN:
How did the idea of opening this restaurant come about?
“This whole project started in the west of San José under the name “Tomillo“, with which we tried to bring a healthier and more homemade food option. After that, we moved to a place in the east of San José and began to venture into the world of healthy street food, in which we incorporated fresh elements and national products. Then we went into the Costa Rican fast food scene with “Los Gallos” and after support from the Alliance française, we immerse ourselves in the indigenous cuisine. This is how we evolved to realize our identity with the indigenous ancestral cuisine of Costa Rica and we changed the name to “Sikwa”, being founded due to the need of exhibiting the effort and creating a productive chain program where indigenous producers connect with other restaurants in San José”.
What is the concept of Sikwa?
“The concept is aimed at all those people who want to find out that in Costa Rica there is great gastronomy and that it comes back from hundreds of years ago. That we must pay more attention to our native peoples in order to have a deeper rooted in our culture”.
How is indigenous cuisine defined?
“The indigenous Costa Rican cuisine is characterized by being simple, honest with strong flavors and regretfully unknown to most Costa Ricans. It is a very natural cuisine, even the way of planting the food elements, it is done with no chemicals and therefore it is very healthy”.
What did you learn from your contact with indigenous communities?
“That they are very responsible with what God gives us on our earth, from plants to animals, what is eaten and what is not eaten, what is used for medicine, etc. Respect is a basic value in their culture, for example, they don’t cut a bunch of bananas to have them stored away in there shelters, they just take what they need and the rest is left in the trees. What captivates me most is their concept of gastronomy that is to reach the essentials and discover what a product tastes like without alterations. In addition, I not only learned about their gastronomy in these trips but also I understood how they see the world, the relationship of God with nature and every time, I convinced myself that their point of view is totally right”.
How has the acceptance of your proposal being by foreign visitors?
“Foreign tourists are very interested in these proposals since they come to know our customs and traditions. Trying out different dishes with unique flavors that we at Sikwa offer”.
When you come to Costa Rica and want to get to know new flavors, unique textures and immerse yourself into that footprint of indigenous cuisine, you should definitely go to Sikwa, a different and fascinating place that will amaze you with its rich dishes and educate you at the same time on the Costa Rican roots.