Why Aruba Is the Caribbean Capital of Chef’s Tables
You walk in to what seems like an art gallery, with marble floors and a few modern pieces on the walls. Suddenly the door opens and you’re inside a dimly-lit, state-of-the-art speakeasy with a dozen chairs and a kitchen.
This is Ever, the brainchild of top chef Ever de Peña, who has created a nightly, eight-course tasting menu that has become one of the most sought-after experiences in Aruba.
Call it a Chef’s Table, call it a tasting menu, call it an omakase, but the chef-curated tasting dinner has become a sensation in Aruba, which has more of them than anywhere else in the Caribbean.
It’s a unique kind of dining experience, one where each course is as much an education as it is a culinary adventure, typically joined by a meticulously-paired wine that ensures the perfect harmony of palate, plate and pour.
In recent years, the Dutch Caribbean island, long a top dining destination in the Caribbean in its own right, has seen Chef’s Table eateries pop up all over the island, as locals and visitors are drawn to the concept.
It all began about a decade and a half ago, with the entry of Carte Blanche restaurant, one that largely brought the concept to the island, housed for a number of years in the outstanding Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort.
But the trend has only strengthened: there’s Urvin Croes’ Infini, which serves up eight-course stunners with a mix of “hand-selected seasonal products” from around the world.
Dutch Chef Kelt Maat is the artist behind Senses, which has one nightly seating, with a maximum of 14 guests, featuring eight courses in a modern setting in the Radisson Blu Aruba.
Aruban Chef Albert Raven helms Koal alongside food and beverage expert Tom Rensen in the heart of downtown Oranestad, where, five nights a week there’s a single seating serving up an outstanding mix of food and wine that begins with a sparkling wine.
Another top Oranjestad outpost is Royal, which has room for 17 diners and a five-course menu stewarded by Chef Roy Engelen out of Holland.
For Erwin Husken, former Chef at Aruba’s Screaming Eagle, once named number one restaurant in the Caribbean, the move was to 2 Fools and a Bull, a “gourmet studio” where diners eat around a u-shaped table. The two “fools,” Husken and Roger Herber (a Screaming Eagle alum), lead guests through what the restaurant calls a “5 1/2 course” dinner with food and wine.
There’s even a Peruvian option: The Kitchen Table, which has an ever-changing menu and a unique experience that begins with a “lemon sorbet cocktail” at the pool of Aruba’s Paradise Beach Villas.
There’s a reason why this concept has become so popular — you’re up close with the chef, joined by a group of food-focused diners who quickly become friends, immersed in an intimate meal that often changes the way you look at food.
It’s an experience that sees chefs as much artistic directors as cooks, creating a truly multi-sensory evening, and one that has helped solidify Aruba’s place as one of the top culinary destinations in the wider region.
At Ever, it’s something you feel it the moment you walk past the paintings.
“We want you to come in and feel like you’re inside of a chef’s house,” de Pena says.
That’s precisely how it feels, with the comfortable couches, the books filling up the walls, and the lasting value of a memory you can savor long after you put down the last spoon.