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After finding Jesus at Lima Bistro, I was like a little kid excited for the first day of school going into this next one.
My appetite and expectations were high. Will this be The Second Coming? *Cue angelic singing* Located on L. G. Smith Boulevard, Azar is the result of a chance meeting between two rotisserie chicken lovers. While talking to a friend, Teddy mentioned opening a chicken restaurant on the island. Turns out, this friend had a similar conversation with another friend, Miguel. He said, “You guys have to meet!”
💡 Fun fact: El Azar means “stroke of luck,” “destiny,” or “coincidence.” And Teddy and Miguel's meeting was a lucky strike.
With a passionate, fiery hate for another on-island chicken restaurant, Teddy and Miguel set out to create the best chicken Aruba has ever tasted. Combining Teddy’s expertise and preference for Peruvian-style chicken with Miguel’s Venezuelan version became a game of compromise until both were satisfied. With the perfect chicken recipe in hand, construction started on what is now Azar Open Fire Cuisine. The only issue? Teddy joked that they would need to sell about 4,000 chickens a day to make rent. But the flavour of charcoal and fire can be used in many things, not just chicken, he says.
There are enough classic steakhouses on the island! Azar has steak but with a Latin American twist. Most of the menu is grilled on charcoal. You might get a glimpse of the action if you’re sitting indoors. The open kitchen, which used to be an escape room, is like looking at an orchestra. So many things happening at once, but all in sync. I’ve only ever seen Azar from the outside. What surprised me was that half the restaurant is outdoors/open air but done very modernly. The setting reminded me of the house in “Ex Machina.” Full glass walls, with a view of nature. They also included a wall made of ornamental concrete blocks, typical in older Aruban homes, which allows for better ventilation of the area. To make it all come together, all servers wore matching uniforms, complete with fedoras.
Our server brought over some warm focaccia with a roasted garlic olive oil mix, and yup, as predicted, the excitement started to build. Our server was not only extremely polite but very well-informed about everything he brought over. Like rehearsed answers to questions, as if they were trained for consistency in service and responses. Very professional. There’s a difference between restaurants owned by chefs and those owned by just anyone with some extra cash. There’s attention to detail like no other. It’s no wonder Azar is on TripAdvisor’s top 10 best restaurants in Aruba list.
As I waited for the appetizers, I tried three different cocktails. The Watermelon Sour was refreshing, the Bichota, topped with lemon foam, was unique, and the No Mezcalculations, made with Mescal tequila, was my guest’s favourite (no comment *gulp gulp*). You all know by now that I’m not a big drinker but a big eater. Bring on the food!
The appetizers arrived, and I got excited for a salad… Yeah… a grilled piece of lettuce. Complete with top-quality parmesan, grapes, bacon, and miso Caesar dressing. I learned that there’s a lot of Asian influence in Latin American culture. You can see that in many Latin American dishes.
Next was thinly sliced tuna with soy cream, sesame oil, and avocado. Again, the Asian influence could be tasted in the creation. This “smooth” flavourful dish was light but still rich.
You know what’s impossible to hate? Chicharrones (pork belly)! Teddy’s chicharron recipe is special. It’s cooked for 12 hours and served with a guava jam and spicy mayo. Absolutely delicious. It's crispy but still juicy and full of flavour!
When I found out Azar was added to my stops, the first thing that came to mind was a big juicy steak. If you know me, you know I’m a steak and potatoes girl. Well, let me tell you… I was like a cartoon character with my eyes bulging out when this beautiful piece of meat was put in front of me. Wawawiwa. This 32-ounce porterhouse, which was the week special and a whopping $250, was just… perfect… You know the phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too?” Well, It’s so sad that I can’t marry this steak and eat it too… The photographer said, “Hey, leave some for us to try, you selfish animal!” I looked over while growling and said fiiiine… Yes, it was expensive, but it was also expensive for the restaurant. They come in a box of five for a very spicy price. QUALITY. That is all. Don’t let the price of this steak scare you, though. Besides this, Azar is very reasonably priced!
One of the side dishes, which Teddy said, “You know you shouldn’t try that one… It’s dangerous!” was the sweet bananas covered in mozzarella. This banana creation, which Teddy tried at a friend’s house and perfected, in combination with the porterhouse, was Ah-mazing.
The Chilean Sea Bass with Asian Beurre Blanc and sweet potato puree was delicious. My concern with fish is always: Will it smell too fishy…? I’m very picky when it comes to fish. But this one was excellent. The flavors all go so well together.
All the side dishes I got to try were on point. The fries were crispy, the baby carrots were sweet and smokey, and the broccoli was, well, broccoli. “The broccoli is not popular, I see,” Teddy said. Nothing against broc, but if you could see that table, you would also ignore the broccoli. It was good, though! There was also an assortment of sauces, such as chimichurri and truffle jus.
While Azar is a casual restaurant, it does give “baby fine-dining” vibes. So when Teddy said, eat this next one with your hands, I was hesitant, but it was the perfect opportunity to let my inner cavewoman out. The house-marinated rotisserie chicken made in the firewood rotisserie oven ruined every other rotisserie chicken for me. I will no longer lower my standards and buy a supermarket pouch of chicken or eat at that other chicken spot we dare not mention. Whoever said you don’t eat chicken at a restaurant hasn’t tried this one! I’m just going to use keywords. *Clears throat* #JUICY! #TASTY! #CRISPYSKIN! As per Teddy’s request: #F*CK_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (fill in the blank) #ADDICTIVE #FANTASTIC. This whole chicken is perfect for sharing #FAMILYFEAST. By the way, it’s only $35. It’s important to Teddy and Miguel that everyone can enjoy something at different price points.
Fun fact: Azar means fire in Persian.
The interior of Azar is modern but has a classic twist. The walls are almost entirely covered in red bricks. “Almost” because the island ran out of red bricks during the construction! The kitchen is filled with young talent, of which Teddy and Miguel are very proud. It’s a shame that many talented young chefs are lured into easier burger-flipping jobs and are less attracted to the creative culinary world. Azar tries to change the menu often to keep things exciting. Miguel, who loves to eat, tries everything on the new menu to give feedback. The menu also includes a chef’s special creation every week.
Dessert arrived, and my eyes fell on this little plate of vanilla ice cream on crumbles. The homemade ice cream is creamy and sweet. Simple but delicious. I then tried the deconstructed apple pie. It was good, but I thought it was missing some ice cream… Teddy laughed. Turns out the ice cream I just ate was supposed to go with the apple pie. Oops! The warm brownie with a berry compote and chocolate ice cream was just the right amount of sweet. While I would prefer vanilla ice cream with a brownie, it was still a win. This is the “classic” steakhouse dessert—a must-have on the menu.
Lastly, the crème brûlée, a French classic, with a mazamorra morada bottom (a purple corn pudding), a Peruvian classic, served on the One Happy Island, was a beautiful fusion closing to a wonderful evening. If you were wondering, I slept horribly that night because I ate for a family of 12. But it was worth it. After all of this, Teddy and I are now best friends, and Miguel is a close second.
To finish, Azar is a place where friends can reunite around the table to feast and catch up. This is where I will be celebrating my next birthday, and as mentioned above, el Azar means “lucky coincidence.” That’s exactly how I feel after my time at Azar.
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Xa On The Go is a series in which I explore, taste, and experience all Aruba has to offer, one spot at a time. Join me as I try some of the most hyped restaurants on the island, experience fun activities, and explore Aruba’s wonders.
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