A brief history of the 31 years of Tin Jo
Tin-Jo restaurant is located in a converted old mansion in the cultural heart of San Jose, surrounded by theaters, museums and galleries. The original building was formerly the home of one Cuco Arieta, a colorful man-about-town, who became famous as a moneylender (there’s a saying from the era: “When times get hard, take out Cuco’s card”), and Costa Rica’s first kidnapping victim. In any case, he built a fine house, which his widow rented out to my parents, a pair of engineer refugees from the Cultural Revolution in China, in 1972. Shortly thereafter, Tin-Jo restaurant opened its doors.
I arrived at the age of 12 and remember growing up in the restaurant with its strange blend of Costa Rican and Chinese cultures, its shaded patio with the Tiger’s Paw, a giant leaf plant, and always the smells and sounds of a busy kitchen. It was a magical time, but also a hard time for me and as soon as I could, I left for the bright lights of New York City. After graduating from college, I stayed on in the U.S., and later completed an MBA at UCLA. After a stint as a hi-tech heroine at IBM during the glory days of the late 1980s, I met my future husband, Robert, who was an earnest young social worker, and together we headed off to work in a refugee camp in Thailand. There we fell in love with Thai food, and on a subsequent trip through other parts of Asia, with other Asian cuisines as well. From Asia we returned to the U.S., settling in the Bay Area where I worked as Recycling Coordinator for the City of San Francisco, and Robert got a Masters from UC Berkeley in City and Regional Planning.
And then for something completely different! My parents had grown tired of the restaurant business and were offering it to whichever of their four daughters was interested. I was the only one who took the bait. So Robert and I packed up our bags and moved to Costa Rica and became, contrary to all of our expectations, restauranteurs.
We figured that we’d try it for a year or two at most. That was ten years ago. During that time we have grown the restaurant in numerous ways: we’ve expanded the menu to include dishes from all over Asia, increased the seating capacity of the restaurant by annexing a neighboring building and changed the decor to reflect the varied cultures of the Asian continent. Oh, and we also had two beautiful daughters, Maya and Leila and watched one or two movies along the way.
Ten years into our little restaurant adventure we’re still at it, and though we get a bit tired at times, we still love what we do. We’re very proud of what the Tin-Jo has become, and look forward to welcoming you on your first, second, fifth or one hundredth visit.