Bonaire Insider Dining Review–La Cantina del Mar, Reincarnated
La Cantina del Mar on Bonaire has reincarnated itself into an exciting and fun eatery.
La Cantina del Mar, conveniently located on Kaya Grandi in Kralendijk, has undergone a metamorphosis in recent months, reincarnating itself into a world-class restaurant. Previously serving an eclectic Mexican-inspired menu, La Cantina del Mar, as it is today, is a totally new restaurant! And one which you should definitely add to your Bonaire restaurant Bucket List.
My dining companion and I decided to check it out. We made an advance reservation (HIGHLY recommended) and were surprised when we arrived to see the line of people waiting to be seated. But the line moved quickly, as the hostess efficiently seated everyone, and we promptly informed the hostess we had a reservation. I do believe it was the last open table in the house. Even every bar-stool was taken.
The wait staff in any of Rick’s and Kim’s restaurants are highly trained and they quickly brought us menus and took our beverage orders. At first, I was overwhelmed by all the choices on the menu, as I turned page after page. But with only a moment’s review, I quickly caught on that La Cantina del Mar truly has an option for everyone:
- Those who want to sit back, socialize, and be served a great meal,
- Those who want to have a little say in the decision of what will be served, and
- Those who have definite ideas as to what and how much they will eat, and how it is prepared.
Once we figured this out, it was quite simple to make our choices. But let me describe the various options.
The Chef’s Table.
For those who want to enjoy their meal, but don’t want to bother with having to figure out what to order, La Cantina del Mar’s Menu JRE is just the thing!
Chef Rick is a member of the Jeunes Restaurateurs, an association of young chefs who share their talent and passion for great food. The chefs of this elite group combine high quality culinary craftsmanship, incorporating local culinary traditions and produce.
La Cantina del Mar offers either a four- or six-course JRE “surprise” menu, and the entire meal is prepared in the outdoor kitchen, so you can even watch its creation. A four- or six-course drink and wine option is available as well, with beverages carefully selected to meld with the food courses.
One important note about the JRE menu, it is available by the table only, so everyone at the table must take part.
À la Carte Menu.
So then we come to the second type of dining patron, those who have an idea of what they would like, but are open to suggestions from the chef. For these, the menu offers a long list of starters, all inspired by local ingredients. For main meals, there are ample choices from the restaurant’s à la carte menu, the Meat Market, or vegetarian options.
The Fish Market.
And for the foodies among us who want to have full control, there are also many options from which to choose. My dining companion and I quickly decided we fell into this category, so we zoomed in on the menu choices available via the Fish Market. The fish is fresh right from the sea, caught by the the restaurant’s fishermen. The variety changes every day, and you can check out what is available on the Catch of the Day signboard.
The Fish Market allows one to choose fish fillets in either small (80 gram), medium (160 gram), or large (240 gram) size, or one can elect a trio of fish (240 gram). Seafood, including shrimp or scallops, can be ordered by the piece. Octopus can be ordered in 50 gram increments. Total control for foodies! And so we placed our orders. You can even specify how you wish the food prepared.
The dining experience at La Cantina del Mar.
The bread basket is unique and fun to eat.
While we waited for our meals to be prepared, the bread basket was brought to us. Immediately, we sat up and took notice, as we were served our squid-ink dinner rolls (very Italian!) on a chopping board in the shape of Bonaire, complete with Klein Bonaire. We were highly amused with the divi divi trees (edible, of course), and the sand (actually bits of cheese), as we sat and chuckled over the ingenuity of the presentation.
The whimsical l’amuse bouche were served.
Next, our server brought us a variety of l’amuse bouche, complimentary small bites. I particularly enjoyed the deep-fried anchovies, but all three bites were delicious.
Since I had ordered a medium-sized, whole red snapper, I was invited to go up to the Fish Market with my server and personally choose my fish. What fun! While there, I told Rick I wanted the whole barracuda, so he pulled it out to weigh it for me, saying my wish could be accommodated. Sighing, I replied I could only wish, and then I picked out a more suitable (read: smaller) red snapper from the displayed fish.
Then our starters arrived. I had chosen some grilled shrimp from the Fish Market menu, while my dining companion exclaimed over the beautifully pan-seared scallops melting in his mouth, also from the Fish Market. Since he didn’t share them with me, I will just have to go on his say-so. Then, again, I was enjoying my shrimp so much, I also didn’t share!
When our meals arrived, we promptly devoured them! My whole red snapper was succulent, beautifully seasoned, and just the perfect size. My dining companion had elected to have the barracuda (but not the whole fish!) and said it was exquisitely prepared.
By the end of our entrées, we were very full, and decided against dessert. But we shall return again soon, to try out other menu items, as well as dessert.
La Cantina del Mar is the third restaurant developed on Bonaire by Kim van Dijk and Rick van den Broek. Over the past six months, they have put a lot of love and attention into making the La Cantina del Mar dining experience a true pleasure. The restaurant regularly holds special culinary events. The menu is international in nature, with fresh, local ingredients as the star of each dish.
Have you tried La Cantina del Mar recently? If so, please add your own review!
(Source: Bonaire Insider Reporter)
Susan Davis has been living on Bonaire for over 25 years. She is a PADI Master Instructor, and an underwater and topside photographer. She also enjoys writing on The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.