There is no denying that everyone loves to eat, and as an avid foodie, fine cuisine is consistently at the top of my list. However, when I decided to head to Bonaire (in the Dutch Caribbean) for a scuba diving trip, little did I know that the dining options available on this sleepy island would be so fantastic. Btw – If you’d like to know more about the Scuba side of Bonair, read my article on Padi.com
Image: shot from Ingridients; Photo by Richard Bilow
Ingridients (yes that is the way it is spelled) is an upscale restaurant located at the Buddy Dive Resort. Situated above the dock, it offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea. The menu features a wonderful array of dishes rooted in Mediterranean style cooking.
We arrived just in time for the sunset. I ordered a Terrasses du Sud Merlot from Chili. This is a delicious full-bodied red with a fruit forward flavor of black currant and a hint of licorice. My companion ordered the Bonaire Blond. Our server explained the beer is a local favorite and is brewed right on the island. The pale beer is fermented and contains yeast which sits at the bottom of the bottle. The beer was poured first into a tall glass, then the yeast was placed into a shot glass, allowing the customer to have control over the beer’s flavor by adding more or less of the yeast.
We were encouraged by our waiter to try the Parmesan Truffle Pasta (Tagliatella, truffle, and Italian Brandy). It was a great choice it was not only delicious, but it was prepared at our table in a giant wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with truffles and flaming brandy.
Image: Parmesan Truffle Pasta; Photo by Richard Bilow
Another delightful appetizer was the Lobster and Scallop Salad – a delicate union of seafood and greens brought together by a sublime cadushy liquor and lime dressing served with a traditional Dutch kletskop.
Our entrees – Gamba’s al ajillo and the Blue Marlin – continued to impress us. Gamba’s al ajillo features giant garlic flavored prawns with head on, along with aioli, shrimp infused ketch-up and premsela. The Blue Marlin (locally caught) was delicious – seared and served with a traditional antiboise. Chef Daan Scheffers van Soelen came out to say hello as we praised him for the terrific meal.
Image: Gamba’s al ajillo (foreground) Blue Marlin and steak; Photo by Richard Bilow
The following day, we decided to spend the afternoon in Kralendijk, the main port of Bonaire. We stopped for some lunch at a casual eatery called Rumba Café. We shared a delicious Greek salad and some tasty pizza. Then we did a little shopping and picked up some of Bonaire’s biggest export – salt.
For dinner, we popped into a scenic restaurant named Karel’s Beach Bar, adjacent to Cappuccino, located at the edge of a pier. It offers a romantic setting and brings to mind the feeling of dining in the middle of the ocean. Owner Karel J.C. Visser has three restaurants in close proximity…the two adjacent restaurants (on the pier) and Zeezicht Restaurant located directly across the street.
Cappuccino & Karel’s Beach Bar; Photo by Richard Bilow
I had a chance to meet the owner and find out about his background. Karel J. C. Visser was born in Bonaire in 1987 and is a fourth generation owner of this business. His great grandfather started it in 1929, and it has remained in the family ever since. “Back when Zeezicht was in my grandmother’s hands, it was one of only three restaurants in town,” said Visser. “It was always packed with people…my father was in his twenties, and he had the idea to create a bar so people could wait at Karel’s to be seated. Karel’s became so popular that it outgrew Zeezicht very fast. In 2002, my father purchased Zeezicht from my grandmother and started serving food on the pier.”
Visser said he loves being a business owner on Bonaire and will be opening a new restaurant called Islander soon. “My favorite thing about Bonaire is the ocean. It is literally my backyard…everything we do has to do with the ocean…even work.” Needless to say, he is also a certified scuba diver for over fourteen years.
I ordered a Cavazza merlot from Italy, while my dining partner chose a Goose Juice (coconut rum, triple sec, pineapple, and lime juice with curacao). I stole a taste of the yummy refreshing blue fruity cocktail.
Image: Mahi Mahi and Shrimp, Chantal Seafood kabob; Photo by Richard Bilow
We began with a house salad and then shared two entrees. One was the special of the evening…Mahi Mahi and Shrimp was prepared in a delicate garlic sauce…so fresh and delicious. The other was the Chantal Seafood Kabob, exquisitely presented on a metal skewer dangling vertically. The dish sported grilled shrimp, fish, conch, onion, tomato, and bell pepper.
Although we were quite full, our server insisted that we try the dessert special. The sweet sensation included strawberry ice cream topped with a fried wonton drizzled with a tart, yet sweet green apple sauce. http://www.karelsbeachbar.com/
Image: Dessert Special at Cappuccino; Photo by Richard Bilow
At this point, I was truly impressed with the fine dining on the island. However, if you are interested in a casual local favorite and amazing BBQ, be sure to stop into Babbejan’s. It is only open on the weekend and sometimes it’s a long wait for a table, but it is definitely worth it. While my travel companion and I waited for a table, we started talking to a local couple having a drink, as they waited for their to go order. Since the restaurant has become so popular, ordering to go is apparently the preference of many locals.
Rumrunners is another waterfront restaurant located at Captain Don’s Habitat. The view is magnificent and just before sunset was the perfect time to arrive. Offering an eclectic menu with a variety of specials, the restaurant is known for its pizza. We ended up sharing a salad and of course, a pizza. It was delicious and can be customized at request. https://www.habitatbonaire.com/
Last, but not least, we had a spectacular meal at Harbour Village Beach Club’s restaurant La Balandra which is open to people staying at the exclusive resort. Here, one can dine on an antique Spanish ship on the water, next to the resort’s private beach.
We started with Mai Tais (white rum, dark rum, amaretto, triple sec, pineapple, lime), and moved on to wine.
Image: wahoo sashimi appetizer; Photo by Richard Bilow
The first course was a true delight. Beautifully designed, the delicate wahoo sashimi (caught that day) melted in my mouth. It was marinated in soy, lime and olive oil, and was served with wakamé and wasabi cream. Vitello Tonato, another appetizer was also fantastic and featured antiboise and pine nuts.
The main course took us on a trip to foodie heaven. It was a perfect trio of taste – shrimp, filet mignon, and wahoo with a white and red wine sauce and seasonal vegetables. Delicious!
Image: shrimp, filet mignon entree; Photo by Richard Bilow;
Now it was time to truly indulge ourselves. Who can say no to dessert when it offers three homemade exquisite treats such as Key Lime Pie, Flan Caramel, and Coconut Cheesecake? http://www.harbourvillage.com
Needless to say, my week in Bonaire featured scuba diving, hiking, and sightseeing…in addition to enjoying unparalleled cuisine. If you enjoy fine dining along with scuba diving, kite surfing, and more – Bonaire offers it all! http://www.tourismbonaire.com/