Fodor’s Choice Caribbean: Dining

Aguaviva
Puerto Rico
This ultramodern seafood restaurant bathed in blue and white is from the same team that created the Parrot Club and Dragonfly. Split oysters and elegantly groomed ceviches float on cracked ice along the raw bar; you can enjoy your selection with a large, sparkling martini. The extensive menu is alive with inventive citrus-based ceviches and fresh takes on classics like paella and oysters Rockefeller.

Bistro Le Clochard
Curacao
Built into the 19th-century Riffort, this romantic gem now anchors the entrance to the 21st-century Riffort Village complex, the waterside terrace offering an enchanting view of the floating bridge and harbor. Swiss and French are the key influences in the sublime preparations; the chicken in curry sauce with exotic fruit is divine. The signature dish is La Potence, a swinging, red-hot metal ball covered with bits of sizzling tenderloin and sausage, served with various dipping sauces. www.bistroleclochard.com.

Blanchard’s
Anguilla
This absolutely delightful restaurant is considered one of the best in the Caribbean, if not the world. Proprietors Bob and Melinda Blanchard moved to Anguilla from Vermont in 1994 to fulfill their culinary dreams. A festive atmosphere pervades the handsome, airy white room, which is accented with floor-to-ceiling teal-blue shutters to let in the breezes. The contemporary menu is ever-changing but always delightful; house classics like corn chowder, lobster cakes, and a Caribbean fish sampler are crowd pleasers.

Chez Pascal
Antigua
Pascal and Florence Milliat built this hilltop charmer with their own hands, and it begs comparison with any bistro in the French West Indies. The flagstone terrace overlooks a tinkling fountain and lighted pool; the tasteful, elevated dining room is furnished in dark rattan, with ceramics, and copper pots. Pascal’s classic Lyonnaise cuisine exhibits his remarkably deft hand with subtle, silken sauces. Try the gossamer chicken-liver mousse in thyme sauce, practically translucent and transcendent scallops with leeks, or the sublime steamed grouper in beurre blanc.

Evita’s Italian Restaurant
Jamaica
Just about every celebrity who has visited Ocho Rios has dined at this hilltop restaurant, and Evita has the pictures to prove it. Guests feel like stars themselves, with attentive waitstaff helping to guide them through a list of about 30 kinds of pasta, ranging from lasagna Rastafari (vegetarian) and fiery jerk spaghetti to rotelle colombo (crabmeat with white sauce and noodles). Kids under 12 eat for half-price, and light eaters will appreciate half portions.

Grand Old House
Grand Cayman
Classic European cuisine with a Caribbean influence is delicious (the potato-crusted tuna is my favorite), but it’s the outdoor, romantic atmosphere that justifies the high prices here. The setting is the Petra Plantation House, which dates from 1908 and is a favorite for weddings. Sparkling lights adorn the covered, oceanside gazebos and spacious patio, or you can dine indoors, where a pianist provides the perfect music. The service is stellar and the wine list noteworthy (though wine prices are high).

KoalKeel
Anguilla
Originally part of a sugar and cotton plantation, KoalKeel is owned by descendants of the slaves once housed on this very site. With a day’s notice, you can enjoy a whole chicken that has been slow-roasted from the inside. The menu features a combination of classic French and West Indian specialties. Start with goat cheese baked in puff pastry in a pool of honey vinaigrette; then continue with rack of lamb served with pumpkin gratin or veal chop in a rosemary sauce with caramelized shallots and truffled mashed potato. Be sure to save room for the incredible desserts made by pastry wizard Geraud Lavest, inventor of wonders like ginger streusel, a sweet cake with caramel and spiced roasted apricots.

La Belle Epoque
Martinique
In a wealthy suburb high above Fort-de-France, this antiques-filled dining room offers a truly fine-dining experience, from the professional service to the sparkling crystal stemware. The food is divine. The quality of meat is excellent, particularly the lamb and even such hard-to-find cuts as sweetbreads. Also, the menu has an entire page devoted to foie gras, including an incredibly delicious portion encrusted in blue poppy seeds with red vine-leaf caramel. The prix-fixe can help keep costs down; check the daily offering and its price.

Le Rainbow
St. Martin
You might be tempted to drift out with the sea breeze while sitting at one of the beachside tables and watching the waves. That would be a big mistake. The cuisine in this comfortable bistro includes mouthwatering shrimp and scallop duo de gambas with an island-style chutney. The attentive staff and friendly owners make the place even more inviting. There’s a pipe-and-cigar bar upstairs.

Marandi
Aruba
With a name that means “on the water” in Malaysian, this seaside restaurant is at once cozy and chic. Everything is seductive, from the tables tucked under a giant thatched roof by the water’s edge to the dining room that’s unencumbered by a ceiling. There are even couches set in a sandbox where you can enjoy a cocktail before your meal. Reserve ahead, and you can dine at the chef’s table, which is right in the kitchen.

Mark’s at the Meliá
Puerto Rico
Hidden behind an etched-glass door, this discreet restaurant is one of the best on the island. Chef Mark French has won praise for his creative blend of European cooking techniques and local ingredients. That skill results in appetizers like terrine of foie gras with dried cherry compote and smoked salmon topped with caramelized mango. The menu changes often, but you’re likely to see such entrées as plantain-crusted dorado and rack of lamb with a goat cheese crust.

Michael Rostang at Malliouhana
Anguilla
Sparkling crystal and fine china, exquisite service, a wonderful 25,000-bottle wine cellar, and a spectacularly romantic candlelit, open-air room complement exceptional haute cuisine. Consulting chef Michael Rostang, renowned for his exceptional Paris bistros, and chef Alain Laurent revamp the menu seasonally, brilliantly incorporating local ingredients in both classic and contemporary preparations. The ultimate in hedonism is sipping champagne as the setting sun triggers a laser show over the bay, before repairing to your table.

Montpelier Plantation Inn
Nevis
Owners Tim and Meredith Hoffman preside over a scintillating evening, starting with canapés and cocktails in the civilized Great Room. Dinner is served on the breezy west veranda, which gazes serenely upon the lights of Charlestown and St. Kitts. The inventive chef utilizes the inn’s herb gardens and fruit trees and occasionally even hauls in the day’s catch. The changing three-course menu might present lobster tail on black bean cake with scotch bonnet beurre blanc, seared swordfish in papaya–black bean salsa, and a proper herb-crusted rack of lamb in rosemary mustard jus.

Ocho Rios Village Jerk Centre
Jamaica
This blue-canopied, open-air eatery is a good place to park yourself for frosty Red Stripe beer and fiery jerk pork, chicken, or seafood. Milder barbecued meats, also sold by weight (typically, 1/4 or 1/2 pound makes a good serving), turn up on the fresh daily chalkboard menu posted on the wall. It’s lively at lunch, especially when passengers from cruise ships swamp the place.

Rainforest Hideaway
St. Lucia
British chef Jim Verity presents fusion fare at this romantic fine-dining hideaway on the north shore of Marigot Bay. It’s definitely worth the 20-minute-or-so drive from Castries. A little ferry whisks you to the alfresco restaurant, perched on a dock, where you’re greeted with complimentary champagne. Choose fresh-caught fish, succulent steak or chops, or tenderly prepared shellfish for your dinner, and you’ll be blown away by the rich sauces, exotic vegetables, and excellent wines.

Spaghettissimo
Dominican Republic
This former private residence, with pool and terrace seating, has been renovated with a sense of elegant, minimalist style. And, yes, it’s still the well-loved restaurant owned by Frederic Gollong, but with a new image and address. The contemporary menu exhibits such eclectic influences as Thai and Japanese, with shellfish a specialty. Classics like lamb osso buco with Milanese risotto as well as arugula salad with walnuts, proscuitto, and Roquefort are also on the menu.

The Cliff
Barbados
Chef Paul Owens’ mastery is the foundation of one of the finest dining experiences in the Caribbean, with prices to match. Starters include smoked salmon ravioli with garlic sauce or grilled portobello mushroom on greens with truffle vinaigrette; for the main course, try Caribbean shrimp with a Thai green-curry coconut sauce, veal chop with a mustard and tarragon sauce, or red snapper fillet on a baked potato cake. Dessert falls in the sinful category, and service is impeccable. A $75 prix-fixe menu is a good deal.

Veni Mangé
Trinidad
The best lunches in town are served upstairs in this traditional West Indian house. Credit Allyson Hennessy—a Cordon Bleu–trained chef and local television celebrity—and her friendly, flamboyant sister and partner, Rosemary (Roses) Hezekiah. Despite Allyson’s training, home cooking is the order of the day here. The creative creole menu changes regularly, but there’s always an unusual and delicious vegetarian entrée. Veni’s version of Trinidad’s national dish, callaloo, is considered one of the best on the island.