12/5/12 - 12/10/12
Many vacations to a tropical locale include the decision of whether or not to stay at all-inclusive resort. Although an all-inclusive resort can certainly be a good decision in many places, Aruba has increasingly become known for its food and one would be remiss to miss out on the many delicious restaurants Aruba has to offer. The short version: We ate a lot of really good food! If you are interested in the anything-but-short version, continue reading.
- Taste of Belgium – Wanting to get our vacation started off right, we stopped by the concierge for suggestions. She recommended we take a short walk along the beach to reach Palm Beach Plaza. After a perfectly wonderful sunset stroll and a somewhat uncertain shortcut through a parking lot, we arrived at the plaza. It had everything from local shops to the high end shopping often found in the Caribbean. We were hungry enough to forget shopping and were more interested in the several restaurants from which we could choose. Ultimately our choice was Taste of Belgium and what a yummy choice it was!
As the name implies, the menu is primarily focused on Belgian food, but with an Aruban twist. For instance, my choice was the Filet de Cabillaud Frit Sauce Remoulade. The fried fish was grouper - a popular fish in Aruba - and was accompanied by the classic Belgian side dish – frites.
The whole meal was delicious, but the best part was the dessert.
It was at this meal we established what would be a pattern for the rest of our trip: we ordered three desserts. That way, we did not feel like total gluttons for each having our own desserts, we did not have to work too hard to narrow down our choices, and Clay did not have to eat chocolate. The moment Emily said, “Let’s get the Belgian waffle (I mean we couldn’t pass that one up), the profiteroles, and the chocolate lava cake,” I knew there were many more trips together in our future.
The delicious meal was followed by another walk on the beach, this time moonlit, and dipping our feet in the warm Aruban ocean for the first time.
- Marriott lobby/beach/pool options – Although we wanted to try a variety of restaurants during our time in Aruba, there were also times when staying at the Marriott for a meal made the most sense. Most mornings, we grabbed a quick bite at the lobby café before heading off to our adventures (or extended laziness, depending on the day). The café was convenient and affordable with consistently good food. They offered a variety of breakfast and lunch options, including pastries, sandwiches, and ice cream. Similarly, our lunches consisted of something from the beach/pool bar. My choices were an egg salad sandwich, fish tacos (large enough to share with Clay), and a post-spa Caesar salad with blackened grouper. All delicious!
- El Gaucho – Clay had researched several options for places to eat and El Gaucho was a name that was mentioned again and again. And for good reason. This Argentinean steakhouse in Oranjestad was incredible.
According to Clay, it was perhaps the best steak he had ever eaten.
And of course, we ordered three desserts. The unanimous favorite was the fried cheesecake.
In fact, I am drooling and planning a return trip as I write this. As an aside, one really wonderful thing about Aruba is the standard taxi fares. Charged per car, there is a set fare for each part of the island. The taxi ride for the four of us from our resort to Oranjestad was something like $9 each way.
- Ketsu Sushi Bar – Friday evening we were pretty wiped out from our morning adventure and obviously taxing afternoon by the pool, so we made the decision to stay put for dinner. Our pick for casual and convenient was the Ketsu Sushi Bar next to the lobby café. It.was.so.good. We just kept ordering sushi. They had all of the typical selections as well as some specialty options. I can’t even remember everything we tried (but it was probably just about one of everything on the menu), but man it hit the spot.
- Simply Fish – to cap off an already food-filled vacation, we made reservations at the Marriott’s (somewhat expensive) gourmet restaurant on the beach. As the name implies, the restaurant’s main focus is fresh seafood, but their real specialty is the unsurpassed sunset view.
Because sunset began a bit before the restaurant opened, the host arranged for us to have sunset drinks at the edge of the water while we waited on our table. Other than a couple of rogue waves, it was perfect!
After leisurely drinks by the waters edge, we were escorted to our table, which had an equally lovely view. Oh, I forgot to mention, shoes are left at the edge of the outdoor restaurant, so the meal was enjoyed barefoot in the sand. The meal was an entire sensory experience – the feel of the sand between our toes and the ocean breeze against our slightly sunburned skin, the breathtaking view of the gorgeous setting sun, the mouthwatering smell of freshly cooked fish mixed with the salty ocean air, the sound of crashing waves layered with the soft cling of fancy dishes mixed with live music, and most of all, the taste of the incredible seafood dishes. My choice was a sampler of grouper, lobster tail, and one other type of fish. Clay enjoyed the macadamia nut encrusted grouper.
The service was impeccable and we were never rushed. We were too full to even think about dessert (which could have meant the world was ending, but no fear, we ended up at the onsite Ruth’s Chris a few hours later to remedy this strange occurrence). Simply Fish is the ideal choice for a romantic meal and for us it was the perfect ending to an amazing trip. Well, maybe Clay surprising me with a David Yurman ring later that evening was the perfect ending!
We have an amazing, awesome, Cora's-finally-a-(sort of)-doctor trip to Europe planned for the summer (!!!!), but I have plenty of local attraction posts in the works while Clay and I stick close to our respective homes in Dallas and Houston for the next few months and try to save money for Europe.