Monday, April 11, 2011

La Rosa, a worthy ending

Being in Sint Maarten means you'll be surrounded by Americans. This goes for the island as well as for its restaurants. La Rosa wasn't the exception. The food was adjusted to the people frequently welcomed. Large portions, side potatoes next to proper veal meat, a tiramisu without the almond flavoured alcohol. La Rosa had two things going for it though. First, the coffee. At last we encountered a decent cup. Second, this was a place where they knew it will take time to consume and appreciate an all in all fair meal. Here we had the opportunity to look around, discuss the courses and we weren't rushed into the next one. That did give La Rosa the Italian spirit the island sometimes lacks. Arrivederci and multe grazie for having us and letting us encounter the true spirit of the friendly island.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Uncle Harry's, the lobster man

Bigger and more fresh than the lobster at Harry's you will not find. Coming straight from the ocean in a basin in the corner of this wide open panoramic house boat type place, the amount of time needed to grill is about the only time out of the water. While the staff, amongst which Harry's children, do their utmost best to serve us as quick as they can, the calamaris is already being fried. This preceding snack had the freshness yet to be tasted from the lobster to follow. The glass of Chardonnay we ordered was less rich in the mouth, all be it not unpleasant. Our main course was everything we hoped for. Fresh, big, lightly grilled, hardly any seasoning was necessary to complete this star of tonight. The coffee machine was on island time, but at this point nobody would have mind any more. Harry, born on Aruba, has found his meaning in life. Serving a perfect lobster on Sint Maarten.

Temptation, the name says it all

A renewed acquaintance with chef Dino Jagtiani. This time we were to discover his flagship restaurant Temptation. Being welcomed by a bilingual waiter who knew his way around the menu and the wines, we were set for an evening to remember. The wine menu equal to the one presented to us at the Rare restaurant, the Prosecco again found its way to our table. The glasses of Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand to follow washed away earlier memories at restaurants less able to manage their drinks. Tuna, with an Asian twist of soya sauce, and a crab cake, tropically seasoned with the use of coconut, yet again proved this chef is capable of running a kitchen.
The 4 hours braised short rib of Angus beef was soft as a pillow. The veal sweetbread crusty, the lobster to make it an exquisite surf 'n turf unfortunately was grilled slightly too long. The 2007 Chilean wine couldn't have been a better escort to the meat on our plates. Robert Parker rightfully awarded it with a 91 points.
The dessert of crème brulée in 4 different ways was a plate you'd like to take a picture of. We did and smiled.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tropicana, a sweet creation

Yesterday we took a detour to the french side. After a hike through nature at the eco friendly lottery farm, we ended up at the inner harbour of Marigot. Here we came across a friendly looking restaurant with a small terrace overlooking the yachts lying at our feet. Called Tropicana, the feeling was purely french, as was the language mostly heard around us. As, luckily, was the food. On a warm day and after the sporting event, a soup had to make up for the lost moisture. It more than did. The gazpacho was fresh to the bone, the fish soup mashed as in Paris had the saltiness a relatively poor athlete was happy to take in. A glass of Chardonnay to accompany us, a decent french waiter to fill up our water supply, we felt as if in France. The feeling lasted throughout our main courses, a carpaccio of salmon and a tartare of salmon and red snapper. The right amount of olive oil, fresh green herbs and decently fried potatoes made us look forward to the dessert. Here, the french pride came in. Pastry being the chefs specialty, we couldn't but opt for a daily special and a classic. As can be seen on the photos added, one being today’s background, we weren’t deceived.

Mark's Place, as local as it gets

Having enjoyed a more than rich meal on the french side, at night we went out for the local experience. Mark's Place, in the shadow of a big supermarket, gave way to the Sint Maarten approach to a Friday night eat out. Some acras, cod fritters, to start us of, a beer to control the thirst, a little breeze coming through the bars that separated us from the parking lot and we instantly felt at home in the laid back atmosphere. The mahi mahi filet to follow was grilled properly, the tomato salad was rightfully called so. A bit of cheesecake and a coffee and we too knew the way dinner was enjoyed here. Or at home, since at least half of the orders were to take away. It most likely wouldn't change the sentiment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rare, a name so true

On the evening of the third day, we were to encounter an outstanding chef. The Rare restaurant proved to be everything the name promised. The subtlety of the seasoning used, the baked rare to perfection Angus beef, the lobster treated in different but all so worthy manners, this was by far the best culinary experience on the friendly island so far. Dino Jagtiani, St. Maarten born and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, knows his way around the kitchen.
After a glass of a very decent prosecco, we commenced with two sashimis. The lobster was an oriental treat, the soya sauce, coriander, ginger and mung bean sprouts made it a pleasure to the mouth. At the other end of the table a smile came out above the thinly cut salmon and cherry tomatoes. And grew even bigger whilst tasting the white wine, a full flavoured dry guidance. The main course following the salmon was a Chefs signature lobster tails dish. Yet again grilled to perfection, no complaints possible. The Angus beef the restaurants so rightfully is proud of could have been cut with a spoon. Softness and richness entered my mouth with every bite. A Haut-Médoc kept a perfect balance. If remarks had to be made, they couldn't have been about the food. The waiting staff though felt to lack the appropriate knowledge of what was on the plate and what wine combination could be recommended. To serve a glass for the red Bordeaux next to the lobster was only one of the small mistakes we noticed. If this great Chef succeeds in bringing up his personnel to the same heights as his food, the picture will be complete. Over a coffee and Armagnac we agreed that until that moment, we were even so happy to taste the superb qualities of Dino Jagtiani in his food.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

L'escargot, the french connection

L'escargot stands out in the middle of Front Street. Neatly decorated from the outside as well as inside, they are able to create a relaxed french atmosphere on this tropical island. Snails obviously being the specialty here, we decided to leave the choice of courses to the waiter. It proved to be a good guess. As could have been expected, since your man has been working here for 38 years, ever since the start.
The grand opening with a series of snails prepared in different ways was spot on. Every bite a different feeling in the mouth, every snail decorated with yet another vegetable or dough. The sauvignon blanc to guide us through unfortunately had a bit of sweetness in it, a flavour not to be found in the dish. A better combination of food and wine was the well baked duck and the bordeaux of the bel air winery. French until the last bite. On my opposite side, a soft and smooth filet of snapper was highly appreciated. To round up a perfect gourmet evening, the crème brulée was served. Here the depth of the plate was inadequate to prevent the well burned but thick sugar layer the domination of the custard. The coffee served afterward was escorted by an old cognac with a hint of sweetness. The taste of the evening at l'escargot.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Holland House Beach Hotel, a French-American style delight

Dining with a permanent view on the Great Bay, the start of this culinary trip could have been worse. A warm welcome, on top of the cozy temperature of 28 degrees Celsius made us instantly feel at home. As did a nice glass of a light Pinot Grigio.
The Portobella soup served as an appetizer made us realise that the influence of the American cruise ships lying nearby was immanent. Salt and pepper had to be added. The starter of scallops consisted in fact of two dishes on the same plate. Although both absolutely worth eating, it was too much. The tomato would have combined nicely with the foam of vanilla and the scallops, the supplement of grilled aubergine, green asparagus and tomato sauce with green herbs just wasn't necessary. The Chardonnay made a lovely match with these vegetables though. The main course had a very tender loin, coated with bacon. Medium-rare cooked, without asking, this meat couldn't and shouldn't have been served more done. The Haut-Médoc to finish it all up was brought to us on exactly the right temperature. An effort not to be underestimated in this subtropical climate. The wine glasses were chilled beforehand, which gave the wine it's true appearance throughout the whole course.
As dessert the little mistake made at the start reappeared. So we enjoyed two desserts at the same time. A French toast, fresh fruit to go well with 'm and as a far more than proper finish some coffee ice cream.
The ingredients and the way the chef treated them didn't give us anything to complain about. Perhaps the presence of American tourism gave way to the rather broad manner in which this dinner was served. All said and done, we were quite happy to have enjoyed the warm welcome and the vast amount of good food at this restaurant. The art of knowing what to leave out still has to be learned. We were welcome to make the choice for them, which resulted in a absolutely fine French-American style evening meal.

A pleasant afternoon surprise!

After a decent 9 hour flight with movies, music, games and snacks to see us through, the island of Sint Maarten was at our feet. Drove out to our hotel for the upcoming week, unpacked, sat down and then went along the Boardwalk for a small lunch. Here our first discovery was made. Maybe not as high class as yet to come, but what a sauce this proved to be! The Matouk's hot pepper sauce, until that moment unknown to us, is a mouthburning surprise. The little peppers shown on the bottle, as shown on the photo, were a fraction of the true amount inside. A true surprise, which could only be scared away with a Carib beer.