ok, sockster, here's my st.martin report and anyone else who's interested... within the past few yrs i have been to st.martin a handful of times and hope my insights are helpful to those who are headed to this fabulous island. first, i will admit that i am a bit biased and have a tendency to dine mainly on the french side, grand case in particular since it's the "culinary capital of the caribbean" plus the convenient proximity to orient where i stay. so for our meals, here goes:
breakfast is a meal i usually miss because of sleeping in late, but this time around we went with friends and felt slightly obligated not to sleep in until noon, so we had the continental breakfast offered at the resort where we were staying. on previous trips i have had satisfactory breakfasts at safari grill in orient village. but my favorite breakfast would have to be zee best in simpson bay. delicious pastries baked daily and if i remember correctly it's the rare place on the island that offers breakfast until early afternoon.
my favorite lunch in st.martin is simply a baguette w/ gouda or any cheese and an apple. i know it sounds rather unexciting, but i absolutely love this simple spread while sitting on the beach and got my friends addicted as well. we'd grab our lunch from tap 5, a mini-mart across the way from orient village and conveniently open from 7am-11pm, and walk back to the beach. we did this most days. however, there were days we swayed from this habit. we went to shiv sagar (indian, st.maarten), which is better than pride of india in simpson bay imo. one thing on the menu i haven't seen elsewhere is paneer pakora- very good. we also went to los calmos cafe, beachfront restaurant in grand case, where i go to every time. i absolutely adore this place, both for lunch and for a laid back place to grab a drink at night. for lunch the menu is pretty extensive along w/ specials, but i highly recommend the grilled creole chicken and as my choice of side i always opt for the zucchini gratin. another lunch spot we hit up was bikini beach tapas bar & grill in orient bay. the grilled half chicken is amazing and happy hr is great here as well. i haven't yet tried the lolos, but skys the limit in grand case is supposed to be a pretty good choice from what i've been told for local fare and good bbq and i'm truly mad at myself for not going yet after all these times.
as for dinner, this is where we splurge and have yet to have a disappointing meal. that said our least favorite dinner we have had so far was at il nettuno in grand case, which honestly was not a bad meal at all, but pales in comparison to the other options. my #1 choice every time has been spiga (italian, grand case). it's located on the northern end of grand case, hence quieter and easier to park and the food is unbelievable. this time around i got the tagliatelle w/ beef for my main. the beef was extraordinarily tender. gives u a better idea what to expect: http://www.spiga-sxm.com/menu.html. i forgot to make note if they still offer 1:1 currency match, but i am pretty certain they do. another grand case restaurant which i highly recommend is le pressoir, excellent every time. my friends particularly enjoyed their apps: tastings of 4 soups and the foie gras. myself, i ordered the lobster tasting menu, and aside from the lobster bisque which i found to be average, it was a great choice. the lobster tail was served with a mango sauce. and the lobster tasting menu came w/ a choice of dessert. i opted for the creme brulee and also helped myself to the cheese platter that was ordered for the table. other grand case recs which i have dined at previously, not on this recent trip, are (and not in any specific order): l'hibiscus, le cottage, tastevin. we always make reservations when dining in grand case even during off peak season, although this time around we were shocked to see how quiet the restaurants were, including spiga where the tables were always full well into the night. if in philipsburg, i would check out l'escargot. we actually made a special trip out there for dinner and although a good meal, not sure if it was worth it's own trip, but if you are on front st it is a good choice. as for mario's bistro in sandy ground, i am thrilled that i finally went this time around. i was kind of worried it wouldn't live up to my expectations because of the hype and how difficult it is to get a reservation, but we made it for my bday dinner and it blew our minds. mario nicely signed his cookbook for me too, which will hold a special spot in my cookbook collection. mario's bistro, along with spiga and le pressoir, is now added to our must go places for dinner.
and here are some dinner recs for those who are staying in orient bay- places to eat in the village... of all the times we've been to st.martin this was the first time dining there and not by choice (our car rental had roaches!), but it was a blessing in disguise. i forget which nights there is live music performed in the middle of the village with restaurants surrounding, but i think it's twice a week. it adds sthing nice to the village dining experience. the winner here was le cadre, tapas. some tapas we ordered: steamed chicken dumplings, escargot w/ blue cheese butter, escargot w/ butter & herb, beef carpaccio, curry meatballs, fresh mozz & tom skewers... a few more things i can't remember now, but we ordered 2 bottles of wine and it all came to approx $160 for 4 of us! this was by far our cheapest dinner and it was really good to boot. cote plage is prob next in line. i thought the beef carpaccio here was better than le cadre. and the sliced chicken breast w/ wild mushroom sauce at cote plage is a dish i highly recommend. i am guilty of ordering that both times i went; it really is that good. as for tai chi ("thai" but more asian fusion, where u can also order sushi) was simply ok although seems to be a popular place. again not bad, but not that exciting either.
all in all, st.martin holds its reputation for fine dining because the food really is as good as they say... happy eating!