A Secret Gourmet Corner of the Caribbean

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Above: Juanillo Beach in Cap Cana (All photos by CJ)

By Alexander Britell

CAP CANA — I’d been to the Punta Cana area several times before; it’s largely known for two things: incredibly beautiful beaches, and large all-inclusive resorts.

I’ve had some great adventures in Punta Cana, but hadn’t really ventured to Cap Cana, that exclusive enclave of the Dominican Republic’s tourism engine.

What surprised me wasn’t the quality of the beaches or the quality of the service (both quite high).

It was something else — seriously good food, no matter where I turned, whether at a laid-back stand on the sand or a high-end eatery.

stew

Above: stewed conch empanadas at Juanillo Beach

First, there was Juanillo Beach, a bohemian beach bar marked by surfboards and colourful furniture.

Then there was Api Beach, a small space at the edge of Cap Cana’s main beach that began life nine years ago as a cooler.

api

Today, Api serves up fresh-caught, beautifully-seasoned seafood but retains its hole-in-the-wall charm. (Try the fried ceviche)

friedceviche

And finally there was a pair of eateries operated by the Eden Roc; the renowned Mediterraneo at the Eden Roc Cap Cana hotel, and La Palapa, the seaside restaurant on Playa Caleton.

La Palapa was the crown jewel — one of the best settings anywhere in the Caribbean, with European-quality service and simple but spectacular fish.

palapa

Above: La Palapa by Eden Roc

These restaurants were diverse, but shared common themes: simplicity; quality.

But what was most refreshing was that these restaurants weren’t about chefs picking ingredients out of a hat and making the diner their guinea pig. Or competing for the most “innovative” recipe.

While the cult of the foodie has taken over much of the travel world, great food isn’t about brussel sprouts and small plates and blind creativity.

It’s about good food — food that comes from chefs who realize they’re not cooking on canvas — they’re cooking for tastebuds.

And in Cap Cana, that’s precisely what I found.

 

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