Venue Review: Pura Vida
(10/02/2008) Smart, sexy Pura Vida is a classic example of a neighborhood fave becoming a destination rave. Nowhere in the area are there tapas like this -- chef-owner Hector Santiago infuses everything from his kitchen with true gourmet presence and lots of elBulli-esque style. Start with a Brazilian-inspired caipirinha or a cool flute of sparkling cava, then get down and dirty with papitas criollas a caballo -- a naughty bowl of aji-and-amarillo smashed Colombian gold potatoes crowned with a slow-cooked egg, garlic chips and grains of pretty pink Bolivian salt. Or go for the traditional flavors of a tamal verde en hoja, with barbecued chicken in soft, musky masa steamed in a cabbage husk accented with goat cheese espuma (foam) and a slightly spicy poblano sauce. The pace is brisk, not brusque, and the informed and dedicated staff will keep things coming for you all night. Large, colorful art originals dot the brooding walls, and the concrete floors seem to soak up the sounds of the crowd.