Aruba is well-known for its wide variety of restaurants (we have over 250 of them) offering the best in Caribbean food; ranging from award-winning restaurants booked months in advance to small outdoorsy local diners, from beachfront, toes-in the-sand dining to uber-trendy bistros where the local hipsters hang out. - that and so much more!
So for foodies there is absolutely No. Better. Time. To. Come. To. Aruba than in October, when Aruba restaurants are celebrating our culinary heritage with locally inspired dishes during the Eat Local Restaurant Month Aruba!
In this blog post our food-loving staff went out on a little culinary excursion (trust me, they didn’t mind), to highlight 6 restaurants going above and beyond in celebrating our local Aruban cuisine:
E Sushi Shap (Lunch $15)
- By Wendy Sabularse
It’s sushi but then Aruba style! Andriani Geerman, head chef and owner of E Sushi Shap, really knows how to provide a laid-back setting; this cozy restaurant centrally located in Tanki Leendert features eclectic art pieces whilst easy-going reggae music plays in the background. The service is attentive and friendly, and the chef, Iven Arendsz takes his time to explain the dishes while he prepares your sushi roll.
Lion balls (Lion fish tempura) and funchi (fried polenta balls) served warm and crispy with accompanying creole sauce. The fried crunchiness of the funchi balls and the lion fish was both flavorful and filling. Both appetizers are great dipped in the fresh creole sauce.
The Spicy Tai Maki roll balances well with the fresh locally caught wahoo and the creamy taste of the avocado, as well as the slight crunch in every bite from the tempura. A delightful and satisfying lunch. The presentation is aesthetically pleasing, artfully laid out with bright colors to stimulate your appetite.
Fun Fact: E Sushi Shap carries a piece of Aruban history in its name. Back in the day, minimarkets here in Aruba were written as “shap”. (examples: rum shop back then was written rom shap).
The Old Fisherman (Lunch $15)
-By Kareline van der Linden
The family-owned Old Fisherman Restaurant in downtown Oranjestad makes you feel as if you’ve stepped right into a ‘fisherman’s house’ ready to get served up a fresh catch of the day! Aruban music plays in the background while the walls are decorated with pictures of Aruban beaches, iconic places such as the ‘Natural Bridge and old pictures of old Aruban fishermen, families and famous customers.
The staff is extremely friendly, going out of their way to explain the different menu items each dedicated to some of the most famous Aruba fishermen. For example, a seafood mix is called “Jovito Tromp”. The food is presented with the local pica di papaya (Aruban hot sauce), Red sauce and the famous Aruban Ciboyo Tempera (onion and vinegar sauce) for the extra local taste. Each dish comes with fresh lemon, which Arubans traditionally squeeze over their fish. The pan bati and plantain are also part of the dish as a “sweet” taste to the food. All these elements are presented with the food to enhance the taste of the food and guarantee the local unique flavor to the food.
The food itself tasted very fresh; you can almost taste the fresh sea-salt from the ocean! The Kerrie/Kerrie and the fishcakes both transcended that fresh taste. The pan bati (Aruban pancakes) was exceptionally delicious, and could compete with my Grandma’s very own pan bati, (which in my opinion is the best on island).
As dessert we had an extremely flavorful quesillo, decorated in chocolate and caramel sauce, and one could taste the local touch and secret ingredient, the Caribbean Rum.
Fun Fact: The Old Fisherman was created by the owner Mr. Ramon, which prior to becoming a restaurant was a fishermen stand where fresh fish were sold. The whole concept of the restaurant started with a request by tourists seeking to experience the true local fresh fish cuisine. You could say that this restaurant is a true response to the tourists’ quest for local experience.
White Modern Cuisine Aruba (Dinner $40)
-By Sherry Bidgood
Aruban chef Urvin Croes has set some very high culinary standards when he first opened up White Modern Cuisine back in 2012, winning multiple accolades for perfecting the art of combining modern cuisine and the use of locally-grown ingredients.
Situated at the upscale Gold Coast Residence, the restaurant has a modern, classy outdoor lounge area, with one private wine room with air-conditioning. Easy listening music plays in the background and everything exudes an air of elegance, as even the bartenders are called ‘mixologists’. The super attentive manager explained everything from the restaurant itself to the menu and signature drinks. The staff’s passion for food and excellent service was remarkable and the pride they take in their work was noticeable.
Appetizer: Funchi Yena: Gouda cheese and Sopi Pisca. They successfully brought all the local flavors to life in such an elegant and classy way, constantly ensuring you know that all dishes are made with homegrown ingredients. As an Aruban seeying this level of culinary mastery, they made me extremely proud!
Main Course: Mahi Mahi with creole sauce and mini pan bati with homegrown ingredients and herbs.
Desert: bolo di tres lechi with white chocolate.
Fun Fact: Urvin Croes' philosophy on food has inspired many young Arubans to pursue a career in gastronomy, and as subject of even a biopic ‘Loke Ami Stima’ he took on a celebrity chef status here in Aruba.
Trattoria Faro Blanco ($40)
-By Jennifer Richardson
Offering some of the best Italian cuisine on Aruba, the restaurant Faro Blanco is situated right next to Aruba’s most famous landmark the California Lighthouse. This very romantic restaurant has interior seating as well as a terrace seating area, with a spectacular view of the Aruba’s west coast, allowing you to see parts of the hotel strip as well as a vast stretch of nature. Even the silhouette of the Hooiberg is visible.
It is highly recommended to pay a visit at sunset!
Their staff was kind, polite, and they made sure you were satisfied with your meal. They were very observant as to when we might need more water, and came by with a refill. We did not have to wait very long for our meals.
Crespelle di Asparagi: Crêpe filled with asparagus and béchamel sauce, with grated parmesan cheese. Small portion of fried polenta topped with Dutch cheese
The crepe nicely absorbed the flavor of the béchamel sauce while maintaining its texture, the asparagus were fresh and had a light bite to them. The plate was adorned with crispy cheese, needless to say, even the adornment was eaten. The appetizer was substantial but not too filling, so there was still room for the rest of the meal.
Tagliata di Pollo alla Vodka: Boneless grilled chicken breast mixed with tortellini filled with parmesan cheese in a mixture of marinara and Alfredo sauce prepared with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and a splash of vodka.
The chicken was tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. The sauce on the tortellini was flavorful, and the parmesan filling had a nice soft texture. The entrée was nice and filling but there is always room for dessert.
Tiramisu Sponge Cake soaked in Espresso, Marsala Wine and Rum, Topped with chocolate and Italian Mascarpone Cheese
The sweetness of the tiramisu was nicely offset by the espresso flavor, they both worked very well together so neither of them became overwhelming. The moist fluffy texture was very pleasant.
Fun Fact: El Faro Blanco literally translates to The White Lighthouse. The restaurant is located right by Aruba’s popular landmark, the California Lighthouse. The restaurant was once the dwellings of the lighthouse keeper.
Ike’s Bistro (Dinner $30)
-By Marylin Feliciana
With a Mediterranean-inspired menu, amped up with fresh, flavorful Caribbean ingredients, Ike’s Bistro is a household name for a casual gourmet dining experience. Situated at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, the ambiance of the restaurant is nice and romantic; seating is at the outdoor pool area and a saxophonist plays relaxing music in the background. The staff is very friendly, attentive and knowledgeable as they explained the Eat Local menu very well.
Potato Croquete & Mesclun Salad: The potato croquette had a pleasant flavor. The filling was nice and warm and the coating was crispy. The food was beautifully prepared. Each dish was presented like an art piece. The designs were simple yet elegant.
Fish Soup & Pica di Papaya: The fish soup was creamy and had just the right hint of our local spice: pica di papaya. The flavor leaves you craving for more!
Red Snapper & Funchi :Everything you can expect from an authentic local dish. The sweet banana salsa added the perfect Caribbean touch to the red snapper. This combined with the polenta was truly an Aruba experience.
Pasta Carbonara & Shrimp: The pasta was exquisitely prepared and served with succulent shrimp.
Pan Boyo and Cinnamon Sweet Ice Cream: Warm homemade bread pudding, cinnamon ice cream, sweet strawberry salsa , chocolate tuile, strawberry powder. Delish!
Fun Fact: Ike's Bistro is named after the founder of Manchebo Beach Resort, the late Ike Cohen, originally a painting contracter from the States who moved to Aruba in 1951 and became one of the great founders of Aruba's tourism industry, owning multiple hotels and launching Aruba's airline catering.
L.G. Smith Steak and Chop House (Dinner $40)
-By Darice Solognier
Located at the Renaissance Marina Hotel, the L.G. Smith Steak and Chop House provides a spectacular view of downtown Oranjestad and the harbor. Named after L.G. Smith Boulevard where the restaurant is located, this elegant fine- dining restaurant has an excellent and attentive wait staff, and the manager of the restaurant Mrs. Heidy Michiels, was very welcoming and made sure that everything was in order.
The Onion Soup was deliciously prepared and presented in a little cast iron Dutch oven which ensured that the soup remained hot and the cheese remained perfectly melted.
The food was nicely presented and in perfect portion sizes.
The Grouper with the Clams and Shrimps was a Seafood feast for the pallets. Fresh juicy seafood that complemented well with the pepper and corn side dish and the creamy mashed potatoes.
Steak from the Grill was cooked to perfection and was juicy and flavorful.
About the chef: Chef Maximo Ares’ vision on food is all about food for the soul; connecting people and creating memorable moments.
So there you have it folks, 6 restaurants who have done a fantastic job in highlighting our Aruban cuisine in their Eat Local Menu. If you haven’t experienced the Eat Local Aruba Restaurant Month yet, you better hurry, it ends on the 31st of October. Take a look at all participating restaurants offering prix-fixed lunches for just $15 and dinners for $30 or $40 and make your reservation online!