There are many culinary influences on the island of Aruba, because of it’s various conquering’s, but there isn’t a feel for a specific cuisine. Many varieties of fish are locally sourced, but the majority of the food served in Aruba is brought to the island. When I asked locals to tell me about Aruba cuisine, there wasn’t much offered as a description. Many of the hotel menus are very Americanized serving everything from pizza to poppers. Salads such as the Cobb and Caesar are on most menus. There are also a lot of chain restaurants on the island such as Hooters, the Hard Rock, TGI Fridays, Wacky Wahoo, Senior Frogs and Ruth Chris Steak House. Food-wise, I wouldn’t call Aruba’s food scene unique.
It was a huge treat when I found Atardi, which is located at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Atardi is a pop-up, toes-in-the-sand restaurant located feet from the Caribbean sea. During my visit to Aruba with my son Roland, we had the wonderful experience of dining at Atardi. We arrived about 45 minutes before sunset, which is the perfect time to dine. It allows you to enjoy dinner through the gorgeous last hour of sunshine, magnificent sunset and then with the tiki torch ambiance when the sun does down.
When you check in, you also check your shoes in a cubby and head to the sand and a beautiful table with white linens decorated with a vase of sand and seashells.
Atardi, which our sever told us means long sunset in the native island language of Papiamento, is fine dining with the best view in the world.
Because all beaches are public in Aruba and cannot be built on, or obstructed, the Marriott operates the restaurant as a pop up operation nightly. Each afternoon at 4pm, staff arrive to set up tables and chairs three feet from the water, in time for sunset and break it all down at night, restoring the beach to its pristine emptiness.
While the location of the restaurant is stellar, the food manages to compete the view. I started the evening with a champagne cocktail and our waiter suggested the Tuna Carpaccio which was served with pecans, Madame Jeanette peppers, cilantro, ginger, lemon juice, olive and sesame oil.
Atardi is fine dining Caribbean style and the service is impeccable. The Atardi menu offers a lot of seafood items for both starters and main entrees. After our Carpaccio, we enjoyed tomato caprese with traditional Burrata mozzarella with drizzles of balsamic reduction, basil pesto and olive oil. For our main courses, I enjoyed blackened Mahi Mahi served with ajo blanco, grilled tomatoes, olive salt and topped with roasted red pepper sauce. Roland enjoyed the macadamia crusted grouper served with bok choy, black quinoa chaufa over a creamy red curry sauce.
Dinner comes with a show at Atardi. During a visit, not only do you get to enjoy the spectacular sunset, but also sailboats making their way in the Caribbean sea as well as couples holding hands walking along the shoreline and kids playing in the gentle ripples of the calm water.
Dessert arrived as the sun was inching it’s way to the horizon. Roland enjoyed a warm chocolate tart, with a caramel drizzle, fruit compote and vanilla ice cream. Atardi has my go to gluten free desert; Creme Brulé. The vanilla brulé was rich and creamy and topped with fresh berries.
In my book, Atardi: Aruba’s Pop-Up Beach Dining wins the award for best beach dining on Aruba. And don’t forget, the spectacular Caribbean sunset is free with every meal.
Atardi is located in Palm Beach and open daily from 6:15 -10 PM www.marriott.com/restaurant