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.
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