Curacao trip report
We spent 6 days in Curacao in early October, here's our report back:
We had two meals here, one the first night we got to Curacao and another later on in the week. The first night we just had drinks and appetizers, as we weren't starving. Curry crab salad was tasty enough, but lots of mayo. The tuna fritters weren't my kind of thing (a bit of a creamy filling) but my wife liked them. Each of the appetizers were about $11 each I think.
The second time we went we ate a fuller meal. It started off well with a tasty fish soup, definitely funky, but in a good way. We then waited about 45 minutes for our food, which was lost by the kitchen. I had ordered the fish trio, which was marlin, mako, and a local fish. It's sad to say that only the local fish was good, the other two were over-cooked and dry, with the marlin being inedible. It was served with a boring Asian noodle dish. It was incredibly disappointing to have such quality ingredients ruined by the kitchen. My wife's order of grilled shrimp were perfectly fine.
It is a nice location, and the beach dining is quite lovely, but I just didn't love this place. Good for drinks, but the food is only good at best and the prices are high. Happy hour is good with beers costing just nafl. 2. (Just over a buck for Amstel Bright or Polar.)
A branch of an Amsterdam restaurant, this Indonesian restaurant up the hill from the Marriott specializes in rijstaffel, or rice table. 20+ courses are served on a heated table with shrimp chips and spicy sambals. The food was just delicious; well cooked and incredibly nuanced spicing. While many of the dishes seemed similar, there were subtle differences that emphasized the focus (chicken, pork, vegetables, etc.) I'm not very familiar with Indonesian food outside of the usual satay and beef rendang, but the versions on offer here were the best I've had. The rice was served out of a large wooden steamer basket and was replenished throughout the meal. The toasted coconut topping for the rice really brought out the flavors in several dishes, but also masked them in some of the lighter fare, so use it sparingly. My only complaint is that of course by the time you get to the end of the 20+ dishes, the last bites are cold despite the warming table. Even though each serving is generally just a few bites, we left an hour and half later absolutely stuffed. I believe it was priced at about $25 per person; they do have an a la carte menu, but it seemed that everyone there got the rijstaffel. Reservations are required as it just opened and it's very popular with locals.
EMERALD LOUNGE AT MARRIOTT CURACAO
We expected it be mediocre. It was. My fried grouper sandwich was fine, but it came with some blah potato chips. My wife's crab salad wrap was an explosion of surimi and not much else. It's a travesty that people are allowed to get away with selling that as crab, but that's an entirely different topic. This wrap was just bland and boring. Service was poor, too.
Side note, the deli isn't half bad, it's relatively inexpensive, and the pastechi (local baked goods typically stuffed with cheese) are pretty good and inexpensive. If you're at the Marriott and have to eat locally, stick to the deli.
The old market in Willemstad, it's essentially eight or so stalls with some picnic tables. (Each stall has it's own group of tables, and table service is available.) Krioyo, or creole in Papiamentu, cuisine is exclusively served here. (A Chinese food vendor seems to have gone out of business.)
We sampled two vendors. The first was unnamed, but it had a Love banner on its grill hood. We ordered two bowls of cadushi, or cactus soup. (We had planned to try several dishes from several vendors, but we were served two bowls and I didn't feel like arguing.) The soup is delicious, but the texture is ... umm ... odd. It's by far the slimiest thing I've ever eaten, with each bite sending long threads of the soup down your face, onto the table, etc. But it was delicious, being studded with snails, shrimp, mussels, fish, pig tail, and numerous other surprises. We ordered funchi - a polenta-type dish - to go with it, which was delicious and a good foil for the muciligenous soup. I believe the two soups and couple of beers ran us $25 or so.
Later in the day we ended up at another vendor called Zus di Plasa Aki. There we sampled the arepa di pampuna and karni stoba. The arepas are essentially sweet pumpkin pancakes studded with raisins. They're delicious and most locals ordered several to takeaway. (This was the most popular booth in the market by far.) We ended up with karni stoba - or beef stew - as they had run out of kabritu - or goat - by the time we had gotten there. (The market opens at around 11 and be sure to get there by 1 as they do run out of the popular dishes as we found out.) But it was delicious, tender cuts of beef in a stew redolent of allspice. 2 pancakes, 1 order of the stoba, and 4 Polar beers ran us around $20.
We went here for the loempia, an Indonesian spring roll the size of your head. It was good, but it was awfully greasy and could have used hot sauce. We were informed that you need to order it "pika" or hot; that gets you peppers cooked in the loempia. Definitely great drunk food, and an inexpensive meal in and of itself (two loempias and a Diet Coke ran us about $4), but I don't know that it's worth a trip on its own. (It's on the main road to get to Jan Thiel beach.)
This landhuis houses a museum and also operates a small open air restaurant. Apparently the museum is something to see and very interesting; unfortunately the same can't be said for the restaurant.
The food was freshly prepared and decent, but I wouldn't consider it indicative of the island's cuisine. The only two options available were fish or chicken, both of which were fried and served with a pepper sauce (not spicy) and a lettuce salad. They were fine, but not what I was expecting. (Someone had posted on another forum that they served very authentic krioyo food for about $6, this kind of generic food ran us about $10 each.) Most oddly, they brought us out two bowls of Nibs - those little chocolate-dipped ice cream bits from Edy's - as a dessert. Note that English isn't spoken here; it's Dutch or Papiamentu. I didn't go, but people seemed to recommend Landhuis Dokterstuin for krioyo cuisine on this side of the island.
We had unfortunately already eaten, but we stopped by Sunshine's post-snorkeling for a brownie and a beer. (The folks at Ocean Encounters West raved about the brownies.) Great brownies, cheap beer, and a beautiful setting presided over by the jovial host Sunshine. (A wonderful personality and a treasure trove of local recommendations.) Apparently they make great pizza, too, and I think I saw a wood-burning oven in the yard. But the brownies were delicious (particularly the mint one) and the view is gorgeous. And they serve Beer, a generic Heineken product which was pretty good (and thankfully served in a 1/2-liter can, not the usual 8 to 9 oz. bottles you get of the local beers.)
We were a bit worried because we'd heard that the service here was poor, but we ended up having an amazing meal here. (And the service was quite fine.)
They have a decent wine list, and the house white, sold by the carafe, is light and agreeable.
I started with a smoked Dutch eel tempura, which was excellent but used a heavier batter, not tempura. (Over the summer I had an amazing fish and chips in Dublin made of smoked haddock, this was a step up from that.) My wife had Dutch mussels served with garlic, butter, and an immense amount of cheese. (Like escargots, but with cheese.) It, too, was delicious.
For entrees, I ordered the Argentinian beef tenderloin, which was cooked (and rested) perfectly to a medium rare. It was excellent, one of the best steaks I've had in a long time. It was served with a bearnaise sauce and some nicely roasted potatoes. My wife had the local rabbit served with stewed fruits which was just brilliant. Flavorful chunks of rabbit served with marinated fruits, including a whole pear dyed red with some sort of syrup. Getting the rabbit and fruit together in each bite was an excellent combo. The mains were served with a large shared plate of vegetables, including brussel sprouts and a cabbage "spring roll" stuffed with pork.
This was probably the best meal we had on the island and was priced accordingly - our meal ran us about $90 for the two of us. That said, the prices at restaurants in Curacao are pretty high and Landhuis Daniel seems to be a value in the market.
Thank you so much for this report! My husband & I will be staying on the island for a week in February, and haven't found much info about the food there. TEMPLE DOELOE sounds like something we shouldn't miss. We had rijstaffel while on Bonaire last year and enjoyed it. Thanks also for the tips on the local food. We try to stay away from the tried & true (read: boring!) when in a new locale. Very nice to have an idea of what to expect.
We'd heard very good things about Sjalotte, but the menu was so full of imported items and seemed very heavy (lots of foie gras). But I am curious if you tried it and, if so, how it was.
And Hook's was fine for drinks, and like I said, the setting was nice on a very secluded, and protected, bay. (The tables in the sand went virtually down to the water line.) But it just wasn't very good, and the prices were high to boot. (Not that I would have been OK with crappy food if it was cheap, but it wouldn't have stung as much.)
Sjalotte is actually really good and has a sexy modern vibe that seems to be lacking in some of the restaurants in Curacao. Also great for its ambience is Moon (near the Avila hotel).
Also good for casual food on the beach is a place that we call "the container" but it has a real name. It's next too the Surf and Turf up by Lion's Dive and is literally a shipping container that is now a restaurant.
Lot's of cool choices on island.
My husband & I were on Curacao February 6-13. Hope you don't mind us posting our trip report here!
DE KLEINE WERELD--- we had dinner here, our first meal on the island. Setting was lovely, open-air on Spanish Waters. Service was OK. I had tortellini with putanesca sauce since it was pasta night (although advertisements said it would be Greek night). Nothing special. Hubby had a skewer of grilled "jumbo" shrimp. Let's just say "jumbo" was an overstatement. Serving was quite skimpy. Tasted OK, but again, nothing special.
Highly over-rated. While Jaanchie himself is charming, this "walking, talking menu" neglected to tell us about the fish soup we later found out about (and would have ordered had we known about it). Service was AWFUL!!! We waited over an hour for our food, while other tables (who ordered AFTER us) received their meals in a much more timely manner. In fact, we were virtually ignored---asked THREE TIMES to have our drinks replenished with no response. When the food finally came it was hit and miss. Husband's grouper was quite tasty, but my shrimp in garlic sauce was pretty bad. It tasted of bottles garlic, and nothing else. The sides to both of our meals were tasty enough---french fries, Caribbean rice & beans, and fried plantains. Sorry, I can't recommend this place at all.
PLAYA PORTO MARI
Hard to beat the view here! Friendly, efficient service. We both ordered the chicken sateh, one with noodles, the other with fried rice. The sateh was very good with a very tasty peanut sauce. The rice was the better choice (it's called nassi, I believe). Very good. Noodles were ok, but very over-cooked.
GRACIA DI DIOS
This wonderful little gem is in the "Old Market" also known as PLASA BIEU, in downtown Punda. BEST meal we had on the island! Hubby ordered the fish---local Mahi-mahi. It was panfried with wonderful seasoning and just a bit of Creole sauce served on the side. This was easily an 10-12 oz. steak and was absolutely delicious! It came with the BEST Caribbean rice and beans, fried plantain and salad. Come here hungry---the large dinner plate was heaped high!
I ordered the vegetarian roti. The roti bread (served folded, on the side) was delicious. My plate was filled with perfectly-spiced curried potatoes, cabbage and pumpkin. This also came with the salad, rice and beans, and plantains. I can't praise these meals enough. And the husband and wife that run the place are absolutely charming. The price for these 2 meals plus 2 soft drinks? About $18, with tip. Don't miss this place! Only open for lunch.
On Jan Thiel beach. We had both breakfast and lunch here. Lovely setting. For breakfast we had tostis. I had the Hawaiian (ham, cheese and pineapple), Hubby had a more exotic one with parma ham and pesto. Both were very good.
For lunch, we opted for the "Fingerfood Kaas", a cheese tray. Very, very nice assortment of cheeses, bruschetta with tapenade, spiced olives, fruit, cheese-filled mushrooms, and rolls. We had the opportunity to see many of the items from the large, diverse menu---it all looked good. But we were very pleased with our choice. Total, with a mango smoothie and a bitter lemon soda came to under $30 US.
IL FORNO PIZZARIA
We ended up eating here 3 nights! Very informal, surprisingly good service, and the food was good! We had the vegetarian pizza twice. Thin crusted (think St. Louis style), it was heaped with flavorful, fresh toppings. Only "problem" was their salad offerings----there is no "side salad". Only full-sized salads are available.
One night we tried their other offerings. I had the simple spaghetti with tomato & basil sauce. Pasta was al dente, sauce was fresh & flavorful. Hubby had the eggplant parmesan. VERY different. It was sauteed chunks of eggplant (no breading) layered with spicy sauce and a small amount of cheese. It was delicious!!!
Reasonable prices. Surprise recommendation!
The sign near the road reads "Sawasdee Thai Restaurant", but the sign at the door reads "Rijsttafel Indonesia". When you are seated, you each get two menus---one for each restaurant!
Well, we went with the Indonesian offerings. We ordered the mini rijsttafel and a vegetarian rijsttafel. The mini was pretty good, but we should have ordered the full rijsttafel. The vegetarian was very disappointing. We hoped it would have more interesting vegetable offerings (such as the eggplant dish that comes on the full rijsttafel), but it was just mediocre. However, we both enjoyed the spicy bean sprouts, which came on both dishes.
CAS ABAO BEACHBAR & RESTAURANT
Friendly counter service on a beautiful beach. Hubby had the chicken sateh, which was the best we had on the island. I opted for crab salad on a baguette. While made with imitation crab, it was a surprisingly good sandwich. Both were served with french fries, which were ok.
This was our last meal on the island. We needed a quick lunch before heading off for the airport. Best service we had! And the food was almost crazy good. I had the waldorf salad sandwich. Very tasty chicken salad on a baguette with walnuts and mandarin oranges on the side. And tasty sprouts over all. Very good.
Hubby had the Meditteranian tuna sandwich. It was a hefty ciabatta roll filled with canned (but undressed) tuna, salad greens, feta cheese, black olives and a very nice olive oil-based dressing. Very different and GOOD. Very reasonable prices.
We ate most breakfasts in our "self-catering" apartment. We stayed at Limestone Holiday and our balcony had the most wonderful view. We picked up groceries at Albert Heijn, as well as some fresh fruit from the "floating market". Since there was a George Foreman grill in our kitchen, we even made our own "tostis". We used gouda or edam cheese and a wonderful thinly-sliced smoked pork product called casselerrib. Delicious!
Ooops! One more place I forgot to mention---SEA SIDE TERRACE. Very casual open-air place. Very good service. Food? As hit-or-miss as you can imagine! I ordered the mahi-mahi. Sliced too thin, the piece of fish was dry and over-cooked, with little flavor. REALLY disappointing after we'd seen how well this fish could be prepared at Gracia di Dios. On the other hand, my husband ordered the whole red snapper. It was delicious! Perfectly cooked and seasoned. He rated it as one of the best fish meals he's EVER had! Both meals came with the usual rice & beans (good, not great) and fried plantains.
Recommended ONLY if you order the red snapper!