Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beauty Queen

I found out about The Flying Fishbone through Chowhound, an often reliable source of information for foodie travelers.  The reviews were mixed.  Almost everyone raved about how breathtaking the restaurant was, but only a few people raved about the food.  

It doesn't really matter.  My family isn't intrepid enough to make the trek into the small Aruban towns that house actual Arubans so we're never going to have the 'authentic' experience.  So we'll take the best tourist trap we can get. 

The thing about The Flying Fishbone is that it really is breathtaking.  Located in Savaneta, a town 30 minutes from the high rises of Palm Beach, the restaurant does require the get-up-and-go mentality that some people lack on vacation.  That's a plus.  

Also a plus: the restaurant is housed in what looks like an old hacienda, an open wooden building with indoor gardens that stretches onto a private beach.  There are a few tables inside for those worried about the weather (it was raining when we arrived but stopped shortly thereafter) and the remainder of the tables are on sand, sloping down to the water.  When the tide is high eaters at the deuces on the shoreline can dangle their toes in the water. 

Short, stocky palm trees are lit with Christmas lights and each table has its own iron lantern.   I have never eaten in the sand before and loved being able to dig my toes in while eating. 

Now for the bad news.  The Flying Fishbone's menu reaches too far.  Why feature a full page of cold appetizers (salmon and scallop tartare, smoked duck breast salad, etc.) alongside a full page of hot appetizers?  I will admit that my veal sweetbread salad was delicious--fried sweetbreads over romaine with a perfect eggplant caponata on the side.  But sweetbreads, and foie gras, another offered hot appetizer, don't have much of a place in the Caribbean.  And that foie appetizer, by the way, packed a hefty punch to the wallet at $29.50 a plate.  

My entree, which should have been more successful, fared poorly.  Sea scallops were rubbery and overdone and swimming in a squid ink sauce that literally turned my teeth black.  My brother's $40 veal chop was also overcooked and he had such a depressing experience that when dessert was offered he begged my mother to ask for the check. 

The menu focused more on land than sea.  The only catch of the day was grouper, pan-seared and served over mashed potatoes, of all things.  The serving was enormous and virtually unidentifiable as grouper.  I was not impressed. 

The wine list, however, unlike most threadbare Caribbean versions, had many, many drinkable options for even the most frugal oenophiles.  For us, it was a 2006 La Crema pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast.  For those unaware, I have a secret crush on California pinot noir, with its lush, supple fruit and woody finish.  If you're going to drink New World wine, it might as well be California pinot.  

I wouldn't send anyone to the Fishbone, which is regrettable, because it really is so beautiful.  But their prices aren't worth the hike or the hype, and even though the majestic seascape is captivating, it doesn't make up for a less-than-captivating meal. 

The Flying Fishbone
Savaneta 344
Savaneta, Aruba

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