Soda Manila – A Taste of Manila in Costa Rica

Fresh from that mini adventure that is the Panama Canal, we arrived in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

We were really blessed to be given only perfect weather in this leg of the trip – with the sun shining brightly and the warm wind blowing gently along the waves. There’s nothing but thin wisps of clouds across the bright blue sky, promising a perfect day ahead. Come to think of it, this is amazing since Europe is still frozen under sub-zero temperatures! Here we have a very tropical 35 degrees Celsius.

Soda ManilaWe don’t often visit Puntarenas, Costa Rica, so I really made it a point to go ashore and see its beauty for myself. It was in this way that I started wandering along the streets, leisurely looking for a good “soda” — typical Costa Rican diner — where I could have a meal. I encountered many in my search, a vast majority serving traditional Costa Rican fare. There were some that served Western food, no doubt trying to attract expats who were craving for a taste of home. But what I found at the end of my search made my feet stop abruptly. It was a place called “Soda Manila” — a Filipino restaurant, right here!

I didn’t know this place existed, so it’s a pleasant surprise. I entered, asked for a menu, and perused the familiar names. The place served the likes of kare-kare, bulalo, pakbet, paksiw na isda, fried fish, grilled pork belly, and many other Filipino favorites. These were the ones they had to specially prepare — those who are short on time could have one of the combo meals, meant for short order.

Soda ManilaWhen I looked up from the menu, I was in for another surprise. I looked around at the tables, and realized that almost every Filipino crew from the ship is right here and digging into their meals! For some weird reason, I was the only one not aware that Soda Manila existed! I had to suppress a smirk, and in the end I just laughed at my ignorance. Next time, I’ll make sure to do my research. Or maybe I’ll corner a fellow crew member on deck and force them to tell me what they know about our destination. Either way should work!

The dishes they served were really delicious, bringing with them a much-needed taste of home. The menu is also pretty varied, as they have a variety of Oriental offerings (different kinds of sushi among them). Servings were huge, and the plates were bursting with color and flavor! The service was also great, and though the staff was Costa Rican the Filipino hospitality was there. Service was fast and thorough, and before long the plaid tablecloth in front of me was filled with food. Oh, and the place had free WiFi, too! That’s definitely a good thing.

Soda ManilaWhile I missed out on the taste of authentic Costa Rican flavors (those empanadas must have been good) I still managed to score a good deal for myself with Soda Manila. My tastebuds thanked me for the traditional Filipino lutong bahay. That was a good memory to take with me as we set sail once again.

By 6PM that same day, we were once again surrounded by the deep blue ocean from all sides. Next stop is another place where Filipino food is likely to get a foothold — Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!

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