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Growing up, Tierra Del Sol was the epitome of luxury to me. That’s where I wanted to live as a successful adult.
It is still my dream today, and I often drive around admiring the beautiful homes. So, any excuse to enter those gates is already a win in my book. The development of private homes began in ’95, along with Aruba’s first golf course. The Clubhouse, restaurant, and spa followed soon after. Deemed as the “Beverly Hills” of Aruba, this gated community became a household name. The Restaurant at Tierra Del Sol, once a fine dining establishment (Ventanas del Mar), was the place to dine in the 90s and early 2000s. With further development of the Palm Beach strip, more and more restaurants started popping up, and diners were less inclined to drive all the way to Ventanas del Mar. With a few changes in between, The Restaurant was fully remodeled in 2019. When Iberostar took over Tierra Del Sol in 2023, they decided the golf course also needed a refresh and so renovation on the golf course will start in 2024.
Now a more accessible spot with a modern clubhouse vibe, the restaurant, named The Restaurant, was reopened to the public for lunch and dinner. Even during the pandemic, the restaurant remained open. With a less high-end menu, there’s something for everyone in the family. Do you want pizza? You got it! Burger? Uhm yes. Steak? Say no more.
But this post is not about the regular menu. Even though the gourmet Wagyu beef burger had me reconsidering, no, this post is about the Tapas Affair. Every Friday and Saturday, there’s an additional little menu with only small appetiser-size dishes. It does not replace the regular menu but enhances it. The restaurant manager, Jorge, ordered the entire tapas menu for me to try. No complaints here! I took it all in as I waited for my feast of tiny dishes to come. The view from this place is incredible. Looking over the golf course, you see Aruba’s rugged north side and dark blue waters. It’s peaceful and quiet, yet somehow still feels adventurous. On the patio, you can feel the breeze, hear the birds, and enjoy the majestic artificial meets natural landscape.
You don’t have to play golf or live in the neighbourhood to enjoy The Restaurant or the pool bar (which is also the “19th hole”). As I sat there, I imagined myself as a wealthy housewife indulging in life's finer things. Yeah, I know it’s 2023, feminism, etc. But can’t a girl imagine the sweet, simple life for a moment… Sheesh! I’ll talk about the food now, OK? I was joined by the Sous Chef, Gerald, for a thorough breakdown of each dish.
Let’s start simple. The first item on the list is funchi fries. If you’ve been to Aruban restaurants before, you may have already tried a version of this. Funchi is a cornmeal mush/polenta type of dish. Funchi fries, as you can guess, is the delicious deep-fried version topped with cheese. This local comfort food, accompanied by a delicious tomato dipping sauce, is something you must try!
I enjoy anything that reminds me of the food of my childhood. The albondigas, or meatballs, in tomato sauce tasted just like my aunt’s. She is a great cook, but always makes juuust enough for everyone. No extras! Made with Italian sausage and Angus ground beef, with homemade marinara and parmesan crumble, it was delightful.
Next up is the jamon serrano and manchego. While I’m not the biggest fan of charcuterie, my photographer was raving about the ham while shoving it all in his mouth. The manchego cheese was my guest’s favourite. She may have been a mouse in a past life. The sourdough bread with fig jam, on the other hand, oh yes, now we’re talking. The fresh fig confit is cooked for 3 hours and is just beautiful on the bread.
The shrimp ‘al ajillo,’ which is shrimp in garlic served with a crunchy piece of baguette, was delicious. It’s simple but satisfying. What was more interesting about this dish was the almost cracker-like garlic bread.
Believe it or not, I used to be vegan (long story, and I do not want to anger anyone), and I have tasted so many kinds of hummus in this lifetime. I also have Lebanese roots, so consider me your personal hummus expert, your hummus connoisseur, if you will. The Mediterranean Delight, with pita chips, homemade hummus, and baba ganoush, was just as expected. The hummus had a nuttier taste than I’m used to, but it was rich and tasty.
The balchi pisca, fish cakes made with local fish, reminded me of my childhood again… I had a flashback of eating the most delicious tuna pastechi. The pickled onions and curry Madame Jeanette aioli fit perfectly with these little fish patties.
The ceviche is the perfect after-golf-day-in-the-sun dish. It is a refreshing dish of white fish with sweet potato crisp. This light tapa is ideal as an appetizer or for someone who wants a healthier alternative to all the fried items.
You know I’ve never had gyozas before. I’m not sure why. But these chicken and mushroom dumplings were very savoury. I understand now why people like dumplings so much.
It was time for more carbs, and I had my eyes on the oyster mushroom risotto. This vegetarian dish made with pumpkin puree was creamy and somehow even gave the sensation of cheese. Compared to the ceviche, this one is more filling and decadent.
These last two coming up were my favourites. So, of course, I saved them until the end. The Picanha kebabs were so good, marinated in garlic and Caribbean seasoning and then grilled on direct heat. The yucas bravas were crispy and tasty, seasoned with cajun spices. The salsa verde, basically a chimichurri, was the perfect dip.
Lastly, and my winner of the evening, the crispy pork belly. Brined in salt, pepper, and other spices for 24 hours, cooked for over an hour, then deep-fried and served with papaya kimchi and a lemongrass chili sauce. Ooof!! I did not want to share these! Crispy and super flavourful!
The Restaurant at Tierra Del Sol is more than just a place to eat and drink. It’s a place where you can enjoy the natural beauty of Aruba in a more tranquil setting, experience the friendly people, indulge in delicious food, and reward yourself for simply existing. Luxury doesn’t have to be inaccessible. The Restaurant welcomes locals and visitors who need a break from the chaos, regardless of their status. It’s what makes Aruba, well, Aruba. We love everyone. As for me, this love affair turned into a full-blown romance. We’re official!
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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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