Restaurants & Bars 6

5 days in Aruba

triple creme | Mar 20, 2011 11:19 AM

4 of us chowhounds just got back from 5 days in Aruba.

First night we had a superb dinner at a newish downtown restaurant called Que Pasa. I had 2 specials: For starters a salmon carpaccio that melted in my mouth before I could manage to dunk it into any of the lovely sauces dotted on the plate. For my main dish a "tofu lasagna" where the lasagna noodles were replaced by pressed, BBQ'd tofu. So unexpected and delicious. The staff were enthusiastic, bubbly young Dutch people who were eager to describe everything on the eclectic menu.

Next night, Yemanja, just down the block from Que Pasa. This is a more professionally run, popular (i.e., crowded) destination. The food was good but the service somewhat brusque. Very nice non-dairy tomato soup to start, and a splendid "grouper fillet" which turned out to be grouper flakes formed into 2 "pucks", with some boursin cheese melting in the center, and a sprinkling of parmesan on top, carmelized under the broiler. I'm still thinking about it.

Next up, Queen's Bar and Restaurant near the cruise ship dock. I'd read about it on tripadvisor.uk, where they sing its praises like it's the best genuine local place on the island. The food was just OK. Maybe it's gotten too big for its britches and its authenticity has faded. I had the signature chicken curry dish which I found a bit bland, and was surprised to bite into so many tiny bones, unavoidable in the dimly lit setting. We ordered a bottle of the Chilean cabernet, and when a different cab came out instead, the server (the owner I think?) belligerently insisted it was Chilean until we pointed to the words "California" and "USA" plainly printed on the label. He also persisted in berating the young woman who took our food orders; this was very unpleasant, as she was unfailingly gracious and he was just nasty.

I'm embarrassed to say we went to Blossom in the highrise district for our next dinner. It's a Benihana-like grill. The tableside display of knife action was very entertaining, but most of the food was way overcooked, with soy sauce as its only non-meat ingredient. We chatted with very amiable people sharing our grill-table (one group from Boston like us, another from Denmark) and really enjoyed ourselves. It was fun but certainly not a foodie destination.

For our last meal we headed back to the wonderfully inventive Que Pasa for its weekly "Asian night". This is a restaurant that bothers to get ambitious with recipes and we didn't want to leave the island without a return trip. The basket of warm rolls they bring out has a nice aioli and a luscious, non-salty olive tapenade. When we asked for a bottle of the special Shiraz, the server cautioned that it was their last bottle of it, keenly recognizing we'd need a second. Like everywhere in Aruba, the servings are too generous for my liking, but I guess that's a minority view. I just hate to leave so much good food behind on the plate.

Best lunch for me was the Dutch Pancake House adjacent to the Renaissance Beach Resort. Probably pretty average pannekocken if you're into that sort of thing.

Bottom line, if I had only one evening to spend in Aruba, Que Pasa is where I'd eat.

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