Bonaire: Foodie’s Paradise.
For decades, Bonaire has been known as the “Divers’ Paradise” which put the island on the world tourism map. Next, windsurfers and kite-boarders discovered that Bonaire’s charms also provided perfect conditions for their sports, and so, then Bonaire became a mecca for those who skim across the top of the water. But now, surely we can add another claim: “Bonaire, Foodies’ Paradise.”
Bonaire has over 130 eateries offering every type of food imaginable.
For such a small island, with a population just hovering around 20,000, the island has over 130 different restaurants, with every type of food imaginable from mobile catering trucks, Bonairean snacks, neighborhood eateries, and fine dining restaurants. Many establishments receive frequent accolades which confirm Bonaire serves up some of the best food in the Caribbean. And now, there is just one more dining option for visiting foodies to put on their “to do” list: The Courtyard Restaurant.
The Courtyard Restaurant offers fine dining or beach food, whichever is your pleasure.
Chef Dhanesh de Kok (middle), Sous Chef Marijn Koops (left) and Junior Sous Chef Dior Marchena (right)
I recently had an opportunity to taste-test a sampling of the new fine dining menu, just launched by Chef Dhanesh de Kok, and his assistants, Sous Chef Merijn Koops and Junior Sous Chef Dior Marchena. Respectively hailing from Curacao, Holland, and Aruba, most of the Dutch Kingdom is represented on the chef’s team.
The restaurant, located at the Courtyard by Marriott, has a comfortable bar and lounge area, sitting right on the edge of the lagoon. Simply turn your head a bit, and you’re looking out over the infinity pool, with a view which then continues on. The atmosphere is relaxed and romantic.
Pumpkin three ways over red and white quinoa, topped with goat cheese, raz el hanout and tarragon.
Each plate illustrated how much detail and attention was given to the elegant presentations. But this certainly was not to the detriment of taste, as each bite exploded with the different flavors and seasonings used.
Our first plate was marinated quinoa (red and white) served with the Caribbean staple, pumpkin, in three ways, and then topped with goat cheese. The seasonings were raz el hanout, which was new to me, along with tarragon.
The second starter was a home-made beef pastrami served with a ginger-lime cream and radish. Since the meat was so exceptionally tender, I asked Chef Dhanesh to explain how he did the pastrami:
“The beef is marinated in a brine for three days. Then, it is slow-roasted for twelve hours, before being thinly sliced and seasoned with Bonairean sea salt.” — Chef Dhanesh de Kok
The first entrée was a pan-fried red snapper over a creamy yellow-rice risotto, served with a Parmesan-infused foam and a black olive crisp. Each component could be discerned as the flavors melded together. The Parmesan foam was amazing and quite impressive!
Creamy parfait filled with caramelized nuts and toffee.
The second entrée proved to be whimsical, as it was corn-fed, farm-raised chicken, seasoned with Moroccan flavors, and then served with everything the chicken would eat–basically, corn, also three ways, including a curry popcorn. This was a fun plate to eat, as well as being delicious.
For the sweet endings, we first enjoyed a creamy parfait filled with caramelized nuts and toffee. Our second dessert was a modern take on the traditional Bonairean drink, Awa di Lamunchi, literally translating to lime-water. It is a refreshing citrus drink enjoyed by many here on the island, and it was amazing to find that luscious flavor pervasive within the dessert. I thought at first the lime swirls on the glass would be the only lime flavoring, but each spoonful of the dessert was imbued with this refreshingly light lime.
A Bonairean tradition–Awa di Lamunchi–created with a modern twist.
This tasting menu highlighted a few of the options available on the new menu just recently launched. But others which sound inviting include Ceviche, Shrimp & Melon, a Caribbean Bouillabaisse filled with locally sourced seafood with a hint of coconut, and of course, the 10-ounce Rib-eye with Harissa–the steak rubbed in spices and served with sweet potato and tamarind. For chocoholics, don’t forget to try the Chocolate & Chocolate–chocolate ganache cake served with a chocolate mousse and crumble.
And, as is becoming very popular on Bonaire, there are the Chef’s Selections Menus, with either a three-course, four-course, or five-course option. Any food allergies or preferences can be given when ordering, and the chef will customize the menu tailored just for your tastes.
Options for vegetarians or vegans.
The restaurant sits with the lagoon on one side, and the infinity pool on the other side.
Vegetarians will not be disappointed. There are several options on the menu which are marked as either vegetarian or which can be prepared as a vegetarian meal. Vegans are asked to please call in advance, so the team can shop for additional ingredients, and then they would be happy to accommodate with vegan offerings.
Good, old-fashioned beach food.
And lastly, those who just wish a quick and tasty meal with some good old-fashioned beach food can enjoy the bar menu (also served at tables) which includes jalapeno balls, chicken wings, nachos, the Dutch treat bitterbal, coconut shrimp, olives with focaccia sticks, several types of panini, pizzas, burgers, and Caesar salad.
Courtyard Restaurant serves breakfast and dinner.
The Courtyard Restaurant is open for dinner (call ahead to 715-2222 to be sure you visit on their open days) and also serves a buffet breakfast. Feel free to visit without a reservation, but if you do have any food allergies or special requests, let the restaurant know in advance, so they can best accommodate your wishes.
Have I made you hungry yet? Silence those rumblings, and make your stomach happy with a visit to the Courtyard Restaurant soon!
(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 for The Bonaire Insider tourism news blog.