Coconut Telefax: 08/13/18
Indian Cuisine at Renaissance
Last weekend we stopped at the Indian pop-up restaurant in town. In recent months, the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino has been surprising locals and visitors with pop-up restaurants in unexpected places. Last week’s Indian eatery, Chaska (meaning “obsession”), mostly offering Indian street food, was a repeat performance due to popular demand. Chaska was delicious. Chef Bhumi Raj walked around the dining room soliciting comments and reaping compliments.
“What makes Indian cooking so popular?” I asked. The chef had an answer: Indian food is infused with spices and other flavors—cardamom, cayenne, tamarind—and it is radically different from any other cooking style. It is labor-intensive, layered, profound, and incredibly varied as the recipes change from village to village, town to town. The dishes have evolved over thousands of years. Indian cooks are chemists, or rather alchemists, deliberately matching and compounding flavors that don’t naturally overlap, yet all help shape the incredible flavor of the food cooked expertly and patiently.
Chef Raj likes to add occasional Indian specialties to the menu at Aquarius Restaurant, to banquets, and to Renaissance Island’s Dinner Under the Stars every Wednesday at 7:30 pm.
I started with the potato croquettes accompanied by mint mayo dip and continued with the creamy lentils. I tried the chicken tikka roll and ALL desserts. Don’t fret. We shared. It was all very enjoyable. I find Indian cuisine irresistible.
Chaska unfolded at Casa Matias, an Art Deco building at the head of Oranjestad’s Main Street, just behind the Renaissance Marina Tower. The two-story Casa Matias building, with a large dining-room floor and a wraparound terrace on the second floor, was all dressed up in gaudy, gold embroidery and lamé, with a special area reserved for an Indian astrologer & spiritual healer, who received clients with a desire to have their palm read.
Aruba Ray’s Comedy Club at the Marriott
I recently took some friends to Ray’s Comedy Club at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino—not really a club, but a cozy, converted conference room with a small stage. Host Ray Ellin opened the show, then comedienne Erin Jackson took over, and a guy by the name of Brian Scott McFadden concluded the program with a bang.
It was incredibly funny and worth your while, so visit Aruba Ray’s Comedy Show for 90 minutes of enjoyable insanity.
Ray Ellin has been hosting the comedy show in Aruba for a number of years. He is well known for his ability to ad-lib and improvise with any crowd. He will have you in stitches over the most trivial and side-splitting stuff. Erin Jackson is a hilarious girl with a big smile and enormous liquid brown eyes; she is very relatable and totally zany when she discusses girlfriend-boyfriend issues and their various crazy implications. The third and final performer, Brian Scott McFadden, is pure madness. I have no clue what he was talking about, but I was laughing, hard, tears in my eyes. Admittedly, he is one of the funniest people I have ever seen perform, and he is all over the place.
The lineup changes, but the laughs remain. Get your tickets at the door or call 749-4363. www.ArubaComedy.com
Located at the end of nowhere, behind the airport, in a shipyard, is a best-kept secret—the Fish House Island Bar & Restaurant, a local seafood restaurant.
The place is charming enough and cute enough, and the food is good enough. While the wine list is nothing to write home about, the cold beer is cold. We had Aw’i Playa (clear seafood soup) and whole fried red snapper, two traditional local favorites. (I should have also tried the conch stew.)
You may sit inside in the air-conditioned dining room, or sit outside and enjoy the spectacular view of multimillion-dollar yachts and fishing boats, lined up, tied along the wooden docks, bobbing up and down in a very blue ocean. Vista millonario—a millionaire’s view.
Next time I go, it will be at Happy Hour, long before sunset. I’ll order some fish balls and conch croquettes and chill. What a perfect setting.
Some Closings, Some Openings
2 Fools & A Bull closed after 6 ½ years of operation. The studio restaurant enjoyed the talents of two extraordinary chefs, Fred Wanders & Bas Kuurstra, consecutively. Now that Chef Bas is leaving to join his family in the Netherlands, chief foodie Paul Faas decided he worked hard enough and that it was time to reinvent himself and add a new chapter to his already interesting biography—boating.
He explains: “My love for the water and my boat will become my future endeavor. Starting in October…small private cruises to the south side of the island. Sunset cruises…snorkel trips…it’s all possible, 3 times a week…(well, that is the plan…). The website is coming up…flyers…FB page. Www.1foolandaboat.com, pretty simple with that name, don’t you think? Anyway, Darling…my story…it’s official. No more fool on land…just a floating fool…stay hungry…stay foolish.”
Tony Roma’s, a place for ribs, will fold at the end of the month. It struggled in the past few years and failed to compete with similar establishments in the area, serving ribs at better prices. The place will most probably convert into a retail experience space.
The LOBBY at the Village Mall just opened. It’s a huge investment in an elegant space, with craft cocktails, an extensive wine list, and a live DJ mixing ‘80s & ‘90s hits with new beats every night after 10 pm. The restaurant boasts an interesting dinner menu and a lighter bar menu for night owls, served indoors or on the wraparound terrace. The Lobby opened in early July and describes itself as a lounge/restaurant/bar specializing in international cuisine, with a VIP area accommodating up to 20 party-goers. Drop in for a contemporary experience.
Original Local Craft-Market Souvenirs, Lionfintastic by Sue
Charms, pendants, hair clips, keychains, necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings, rings, money clips, tie clips, and cufflinks—what do they have in common? They are all locally made souvenirs fashioned from lionfish tail fins by Sue Heiter, a former International School of Aruba teacher. The unique pieces are available at the artisan market on Friday evening at the Renaissance Marketplace.
Lionfish, an invasive Pacific fish species, is a voracious eater, using his mouth like a suction tunnel to feed incessantly and using his spines like curtains to collect and close in on prey. Aruba is repeatedly making efforts to remove lionfish from the water here by spearfishing, which can potentially control the exponential expansion of the lionfish invasion of our water.
Buy Sue’s jewelry—you’re doing us an ecological favor.
Mundi Health Café
This week, we visited Mundi Health Café in San Nicolas, located on the first floor of the Community Museum, and enjoyed its vegetarian/vegan cuisine.
The museum is being set up, right as we speak, by art curator Renwick Heronimo inside a fully restored monument called Nicolaas Store.
This monument in downtown San Nicolas, Aruba’s second largest city, was built around 1940, consisting only of the ground floor. It was owned by the Nicolaas family and served as a store where they sold books, instruments, newspapers, gifts, and more. In later years, the second story was constructed to serve as the house where the Nicolaas family lived. The Nicolaas Store was a very popular store at the time. The building was abandoned for about 20 years, until Monumenten Fonds Aruba, the monument fund, bought it in 2013. The full restoration of the monument was completed in 2016 with the intention to re-open as a Community Museum, along with an exhibit area upstairs for contemporary art and a small café.
The health café concept downstairs was the idea of 22-year-old owner Tristan Nedd, born and raised in San Nicolas, and his entire family pitches in, especially grandma, who provides the soup recipes. The name Mundi comes from axis mundi, meaning the center of the universe.
Artist Vanessa Paulina is currently busy with a project related to the Community Museum, and already has some of her work on display in-house. Also on display are two steel sculptures—one by Gilbert Senchi, titled Bao Palo (Under a Tree), and the other by Osaira Muyale, titled St. Nicholas—as a promise of things to come.
Mundi Health Café, Van de Veen Zeppenfeldstraat #27, San Nicolas. Hours: 8:00 am – 11:00 pm.