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Our Radisson Aruba Trip Report June 2011

Our Aruba Restaurant Reviews


Just prior to arrival in Aruba, we purchased gift certificates online from the Aruba Gastronomic Association.

"Gift certificates are accepted at both AGA and VIP restaurants. Each $50.00 gift certificate can be purchased for $45.00. Minimum order: 2 gift certificates. Participating restaurants are subject to change." Upon arrival at the Radisson the day after we checked in the gift certificates were delivered directly to our hotel room and slipped under the door. We used the gift certificates at Amadeus and Laguna Restaurant at the Radisson.

Friday
Barefoot

Barefoot has a very nice upscale, but relaxed, barefoot atmosphere, the food was beautifully presented. Some tables overlook the beach; others are under a palapa overlooking it. The menu is not for everyone, but if you go with an open mind and if unsure, ask for sauces on the side, you should be able to find something to tickle your taste buds. Service was terrific, doting, but not overwhelming. My dh drinks a lot of water during dinner while in Aruba and his glass never once went empty here.

Appetizers-- Vanilla Skewered Scallops, Goat Cheese Medallions- cheese on roasted bell pepper, topped with red onion chutney & balsamic syrup, Two Tuna- Tuna tartar & tuna Carpaccio)
Entrees-- Caribbean Grouper- filet topped with mango cream cheese & served with a light spicy mango sauce, Romance of the Sea- Grouper, Snapper & Mahi Mahi, Grouper Special
Desserts-- Tiramisu & Grand Dessert (Chef’s selection of different desserts)

Saturday

We knew before arriving at the Radisson that they were offering at Laguna Restaurant, a buffet 3 nights a week and an ala carte menu with nightly specials the other nights of the week. In trying to create a budget for our dinners for the trip we decided to take advantage of Laguna’s reasonable pricing for some less expensive meals. It worked out very well and the service was excellent as was all of the food that we sampled.

Laguna Restaurant Prime Rib Buffet at the Radisson

The buffet at the Radisson was such a good value at $23.95 per person plus 15% service charge (note the price has recently increased to $30 inclusive), we ate there twice. With our beverage credit included with our package through booking with MCM Tours, we were also able to enjoy wine with our dinner without running up an expensive tab. The beverages were added to our check that evening but deducted as a credit at check out.

The salad bar offered including peel and eat shrimp, hand rolled sushi, soup du jour, a wide variety of “toppings” for your salad as well as a wide selection of dressings and other salads such as heart of palm, tuna, chicken or avocado cucumber and others. The salad bar never ran dry and was constantly being replenished throughout our time in the restaurant.

Add to this, a chef carving to order, melt in your mouth prime rib, accompanied by baked salmon, a few other hot choices, vegetables and baked potatoes with toppings. The prime rib was just as good as I have had anywhere. For the price, this was by far the best value on the island.

For dessert, the buffets offered a station with a chef making flambéed crepes as well as make your own sundaes and a separate table with cakes, tarts and pastries. One night the flambé was strawberries and another it was bananas. If that was not enough, there was fresh fruit on the salad bar as well. Whether, breakfast, lunch or dinner, fresh fruit was an area which the Radisson did not skimp on. Besides the usual oranges, apples and bananas, there were days with Bartlett pears and grapes.

The only buffet we went to was the Prime Rib. Others we spoke to had gone to the seafood buffet and thought it was just okay. The third buffet night is Churrasco. Again, on the nights of the buffet there is no ala carte menu.

Sunday
Amadeus

Amadeus was one of the highlights for “new found places” for us out of all of our dinners while on the island.

Besides the serene ambiance of the restaurant, the soothing classical music was a nice compliment to the 17th century décor. Dd, a fledgling musician, loved the Mozart theme and we all loved the Austrian cuisine. This restaurant on the island of Aruba, of all places, is definitely a refreshing change of fare.

The quality of the food and service were even more remarkable! Frank was an attentive, but not overbearing host. Without doubt try his blended liquor, the Lost Symphony. It is a unique and delectable blend of Cocoa, Vanilla and Almond.

Appetizers-- Escargot, Coconut Breaded Shrimp, Austrian Goulash Soup
Entrees-- Lobster Newburgh, Beef Stroganoff, Braised Beef Steak
Dessert-- Sacher Torte, Fresh Strawberries, Chocolate gelato sundae

Monday
Passions On the Beach At the Amsterdam Manor

My husband, daughter and I have had dinner at Passions a number of times now and each time it has exceeded our expectations. When you arrive at any place of business, first impressions are lasting ones. At Passions, we are always greeted by name and welcomed in ways which make you aware that customer service and guest satisfactions are their priorities.

The food and service each and every time has exceeded our expectations. To us, it is the little attention to details such as keeping water glasses filled and not being rushed through our dinner which keep us returning on each visit to Aruba to Passions. It even amazes us how two servers are able to coordinate the lifting of three domes off of our three entrees so that they are all revealed at the same time!

The atmosphere, service and food are outstanding and we will continue to return at least if not twice, each trip to Aruba. Thank you to Marc, Humphrey and Teresa as well as the rest of the staff for such superb dinners.

Appetizers--
Prosciutto di Parma- Thin Sliced Salt Cured Italian Ham with Arugula, Goat Cheese & Honey
Caribbean Crab Cocktail- Surumi Crab Meat Smooth Blend with Mayonnaise, Brandy & Onions
Classic Caesar- Chunks of Romaine Lettuce Tossed in a Rich Dressing Flavored with Roasted Garlic & Anchovies, Croutons
Entrees-- Local Grouper Filet in Crispy Coco Jacket- Golden Fried Accompanied with a Light Creamy Banana Dip
Sesame Crusted Red Snapper with Tamari Soy– Ginger Sauce Wasabi & Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Snow Peas
Grilled Filet Mignon- Straight from the Grill Served with Garlic Butter
Dessert-- Brownie Bites- With Vanilla Ice Cream

Tuesday
Soenchi's

Good meal, not fantastic, food was good as well as the atmosphere, but directly inside was where it ends. It is sandwiched in between two other restaurants like Philly row houses and each had their own music playing and it just ruined it for us Dh also thought the dining was warm with minimal ventilation.

The menu is $35 prixe fixe with some items having minimal surcharges. You place your order for all three courses together including dessert. Dd came for the "Tear Drop"!

After we finished our meal, the time came for dessert and the waiter said that their freezer had a melt down and they had no more "Tear Drops". Gee, that was pretty strange since only 5 minutes before they served one to a table that had only been seated for a total of 10 minutes and obviously only there for dessert.

We were confused since the order was taken all at once for our meal, would not one of the “Tear Drops” have been held aside for our order? Was it given away instead to this other party which walked in right before it was time for our dessert?

We are not “difficult” so did not argue the point. If they were gone, they were gone and arguing was not going to bring one out. The waiter offered a rain check good for one “Tear Drop” at another time, as well as the dessert ingredients that night, minus of course, the “Tear Drop”. Since we were staying within walking distance at the Radisson it was convenient, otherwise it certainly would not have been worth the taxi fare to go back for the dessert.

Since dd was really “stuck” on the idea of this dessert we went back to take advantage of the rain check. When the hostess found out we were not there for dinner and only the rain check, she directed us to the bar. Maybe it is just me, but right away I had an uncomfortable feeling, like they thought they were doing us a favor. There were plenty of tables available and it was late at least 9:30 pm if not 10 pm. Our family had a considerable beverage credit at the Radisson so dh and I were not relishing the idea of having to pay Soenchi’s to have a drink to sit at the bar while our dd ate her dessert. So we stood there annoyed while dd enjoyed her dessert. Not a good feeling to have for a lasting impression about a restaurant.

It also did not help that while standing at the bar, dh saw via their kitchen window, that the cooks were microwaving food. I thought he was going to have a stroke.

Appetizers-- Keri Keri fish cake, Goat cheese fritter, dd had the Pineapple duck pastechi (God has to love a 15 yo who can be as adventurous in her dining as she is)
Entrees-- Cinnamon Duck breast (again dd loves her duck), Whole Red Snapper in rock salt crust, Filet Mignon
Dessert-- Pineapple Flan, Chocolate fondue, “Tear Drop”

We went back to redeem the rain check and had a chance to see the kitchen via the window at the bar and was HORRIFIED to see the chefs MICROWAVING food to get it hot! Sinful, Gordan Ramsey would have had a stroke, well, I almost did.

Wednesday
Gostoso

The owner, Jose, was absolutely charming and could not be prouder or more earnest to please his guests. The restaurant is small so definitely do make a reservation. Gostoso is on a small side street in downtown Oranjestad. If you are going to take a taxi anywhere on the island, this is the place where you want to take a taxi to. Parking is also very limited. And lastly, by taking a taxi, there will be no questions when it comes to ordering that second pitcher of sangria. Dh is not a big drinker, but I was able to sway him into sharing a pitcher of white sangria. Oh my goodness it was delicious and packed with all types of fruit.

The food at Gostoso is a mix of international, Aruba and Portuguese foods. There is a very large menu and Jose patiently answered all of our questions and suggested various items we might like to try. Dh is a very daring diner and had never tried morcilla (blood sausage) before and Jose described it sufficiently enough that dh felt secure enough to give it a try.

Appetizers-- Chorizo & Morcilla- Pork & Blood Sausages grilled and accompanied by Guasacaca Dip, Breaded Calamari with Marinara Sauce, Creole “Sushi Roll”- Wrapped with Plantain & stuffed with Cream Cheese & Avocado with Crab
Entrees—Beef special with Roquefort sauce, Mixed seafood with coconut sauce

Thursday
Laguna Restaurant Ala Carte

We decided we wanted to try an ala carte night at Laguna. I love Chateaubriand and it was Thursday, “Chateaubriand Special” $23.95 night. All entrees as well as the nightly special included soup and salad bar in the price of the entrée.

This ala carte night, the salad bar offered blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Appetizers-- Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta- Grilled shrimps tossed with tomatoes, basil & marinated onion finished with balsamic vinegar over garlic toast,
Shrimp Cocktail- Six shrimp on a bed of greens, cocktail sauce, lemon wedge & mango relish, Escargot Mediterranean- Sautéed snails with creamy garlic sauce with mushroom served on puff pastry & bell pepper pesto
Entrees-- Veal Oscar- Paillard of veal sirloin filled crab mojo with asparagus tips, pinot noir sauce & béarnaise sauce served with house risotto, Thursday: “ Chateaubriand Special”- Roasted & carved tenderloin served with fingerling parsley roasted potato, asparagus, pepper corn sauce & béarnaise sauce

Friday
Marina Pirata

Marina Pirata is still one of our family’s favorites. This is our place to go for local flavor at a reasonable price with the added bonus of dining outdoors on the water.

Luckily we had made a reservation almost two weeks prior to arriving, requesting a table on the dock next to the water. When we arrived, the restaurant was full with locals. It was worth the price of a phone call from the states when we saw that there was one table still available, it was next to the water on the dock as requested, and it was ours. We were the only tourists there until we were about half way through our meal when another family sat down for dinner.

Only in Aruba would you see it. Dh couldn't believe it when a party of three was seated next to us and they almost immediately after being seated received their entrees. Little did he know? Dh had had his back to them when they were seated at their original table. Being full, the manager had asked the party of three who were sitting at a table for four to move to another smaller table so that they could accommodate the family of five who had just arrived.

Appetizers—Squid in garlic sauce & two French onion soup
Entrees-- Grouper Meunière, Spanish Lagoon Special- Creole Sauce, Seafood Kabob

Saturday
Laguna Restaurant Prime Rib Buffet

Sunday
Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano

A friend described this restaurant as affordable Italian fare for families and that is exactly what it was. Service was excellent and the food was very good. Da Vinci is an excellent value for the money. It is directly across the way from Cafe Rembrandt so another easy walk from any of the high rise hotels.

Appetizers-- Gorgonzola salad, two Caesar salads & mushrooms in a cream sauce which we shared and nearly fought over. It was truly AMAZING.
Entrees-- Tuna Puttanesca, Grouper in white wine sauce, Vegetarian lasagna

Monday
Papillion

There are many words one could use to describe this restaurant. I am just going to say, “WOW”. There were four of us who dined together. Three had dived that day and the other had walked two miles. Everyone was starving and what a memorable delectable meal it was. Our party ate “soup to nuts” and the service was very nicely spaced out so that we did not feel rushed.

Soups--
Bisque- Caribbean lobster & prawn bisque sprinkled with a touch of cilantro
Dijon mustard soup- creamy soup made of spicy whole grain mustard with a hint of bacon

Appetizers--
Ceviche al Habana- Tuna, grouper with shrimp marinated in lemon & lime juice with cilantro, Madame Janette peppers & red onions
Tuna Trio- Tartare with mango & sesame seared black peppered tuna with spicy papaya & a seaweed salad & Carpaccio with sesame soy & lime sauce
Escargot en Croûte- Escargots simmered in herbs & garlic butter & a touch of Pernod, sealed underneath a pastry crust
Chèvre salad- crispy goat cheese on a mixed salad with a marinated beetroot, melon tomatoes, pine nuts & a honey balsamic dressing

Entrees--
Mahi Mahi Special with White Asparagus served over Risotto
Triple Tail Safrannaise- fresh filet of triple tail baked on the skin with home made garlic angel hair pasta & a saffron beurre blanc
Grouper Papillon- grouper filet pan fried with garlic, herbs & lemon under a potato crust, served with a white wine lobster sauce
Canard à Passion- Crispy, seared duck served with mushroom rice cakes, green asparagus, an orange passion fruit sauce & a chocolate drizzle

Dessert--
Mousse Tasting- A white, dark & milk chocolate mousse with a Caribbean twist.

Tuesday
Passions On the Beach At the Amsterdam Manor


Soups & Salad-- Soup of the Day- Cream of Onion Soup, Classic Caesar
Entrees-- Grilled Filet Mignon “Firenze”- On Green Asparagus & Balsamico Glazed Mushroom & Bacon Ratatouille & Port Wine Gravy
Vegetarian Lasagna- Vegetable Layers of Eggplant, Zucchini, Mushrooms, Cream & Parmesan Cheese with a Chunky Tomato Sauce
Get Together- Grilled Grouper Fillet with Creamy Hot Shrimps

Dh found it interesting to note that seafood such as shrimp and scallops were not cooked like it is done in the US, most were softer in the middle, almost cool to the touch and one would think they are raw since the texture is different from what we are used to getting. The seafood is not cooked as “well done” as in the US. Overall the texture being different from what we are used to in restaurants here in the U.S.

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