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Citrus Restaurant @ The Inn at Cupecoy is your best option for a fine dining experience. When I was there the chef was a Trotter alumni, but I understand the chef has since changed but the restaurant remains very good. Pricey, but worth it.

 

CITRUS

011 599 545 4333

The Inn at Cupecoy, 130 Lowlands,

St. Maarten

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I'll be in French St. Martin (Grand Case area) in a week. Any restaurants I should try? I'm leery of all the guidebook reports about how great the expensive French restos are. Seems unlikely.

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Anyone?

 

Just so you know, there's a pretty lengthy thread on eG on this subject, including a lot of info from a certain "Tony" and a certain "Jason," during much more friendly times (i.e., 2002).

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My recent trip.

 

Posted: Feb 15 2007, 02:34 PM

 

I've been back two weeks from a little R&R on this busy island.

 

I was under the misapprehension that the division was in name only. Not so, as the week progressed, my impression that was that the dutch side had given itself over to the kind of development that, IMO, had ruined the US Virgin Islands throughout the 80s and 90s. The dutch capital, Philipsburg, is a bazaar of small shops with a wide proffer of geegaws and gimcracks designed to separate cruise ship passengers from their money. Simpson's Bay has turned into a strip of cheap looking casinos, fast food restaurants, and cheap bars. Indeed, a local chef lamented that it had turned into Coney Island.

 

Fortunately we were staying on the oppisite side of the island. Still on the Dutch side to be sure, but about 100 meters from the French side and in a condo nestled next to Dawn Beach and adjacent to a sleepy marina. Quiet and pleasant. That there are beautiful beaches and typical Caribbean scenery goes without saying. I've been to plenty of islands and St Martin works on all those standard levels. It was the level of dining that struck and impressed me. None of it transcends the level of a very good bistro. But that makes it head and shoulders better than any other island dining experience.

 

The bulk of our eating, in fact all of it, except for breakfasts and one dinner was taken on the French side. It was fascinating as we found excellent food in the unlikeliest of places.

 

Our first day in found an acceptable Simpson Bay pub lunch at Jimbo's. Burgers and Mexican food were not out of the ordinary, but neither were they below the ordinary.

 

Dinner was on the French side in a local spot called Yvette's. Empty and decorated in 1960s home dining room/kitchen style; it is where I had a terrible conch chowder (white water and some veggies) and an overly tough goat curry. Others at the table liked their stuffed crab back and conch stew with dumplings. It wasn't terrible, but given the limited time most have to spend on this island, I would skip it.

 

The next day was spent lounging about Dawn Beach. Dinner was at a restaurant on the strip in Grand Case by the name of L'Alabama. Grand Case is about a third of a mile of one bistro and beach bar/restaurant after another, where the menus all seem to be strikingly similar. We had Lobster Confit, which in this case was another word for Bisque and a workmanlike loin of lamb with potato cake and some vegetable. The jus wasn't particulary memorable. Others had a beautiful looking pork loin with plantano madura. I didn't taste it. but it looked great. My wife had the mahi which was appetizer portioned by American standards. I can't remember anything about the dish. With a bottle of wine the meal came to about 400 euros. Not all of us had desert and coffee and nobody drank cocktails.

 

Our second meal in Grand Case took place towards the end of our stay. The restaurant, Le Pressoir is in a house on the sea side of Grand Case. The food was better here. A little more memorable with some harried but very pleasant and very friendly service. It is here that I'd like to dispel all those rumors that Americans are treated differently or rudely by the French on St. martin. Not true, and I'll end it there.

 

I had a special of Wild Brittany Sea Bass--fresh and just in. A small portion of bass in a lemon vinaigrette. Very pedestrian. My wife's seafood sampler, touted as the specialty of the house was laughably tiny. It really was a joke. There were appetizers of lobster ravioli that looked terrific and were pronounced delicious by those who ordered them. A loin veal chop was cooked to order and attractively deboned and sliced for presentation. This was accompanied by a good potato gratin. Black truffle was offered at 3 euros/gram and five grams were shaved for the veal. Another in our party ordered the lobster tasting menu and also thought it very good. With 2 bottles of wine a shared desert and an upgraded mignardise--"Valrhona Chocolates, they're french and very good" --the tab came to about 550 dollars for 4.

 

None of the food in These restaurants transcended anything that one would find in a good bistro. We were staying with some St. Martin hands and the consensus was that the French restaurants in Grand case are uniformly over-priced and are marketing the term "French Restaurant" as a brand to tourists while delivering a decidedly middle of the road product.

 

We dined one night on the Dutch side at a restaurant called Temptations. Oy. The marketing hype for this place runs along the lines of:

 

"Eating dessert is like making love, it should be done slowly and with passion"

 

There's lots more of that sort of thing and the place has the sort of CIA/ACF food to match. Putting a snarky Plotnickian spin on it; this would be my go to restaurant if it was in Dayton, Ohio.

 

Very imaginative Foie app with fig jelly (I think) and homemade peanut butter. Crab Cake was flattened disc that was a little burnt. My Tuna was CO gassed and I believe I got mouthfuls of nasty bloodline on the first two bites. This made the dish a total non-starter for me. Our hosts loved their meal. Aussie or maybe NZ rack of lamb. Beef tenderloin, etc. . . The setting is suburban posh. I was asked if I would return. I answered no. The bill was in the 500 dollar range.

 

Loterie Farm is in the hills on the French side. part of a smal eco-park and the best cocktail lounge (up in the trees) that I experienced. Stylish and tropical with tree frogs chirping in the background. Good-looking, casual and fashionably dressed, model types. Dogs running about. It was very cool. Perfect for twilight and evening tropical drinks. the food is unpretentious, running to ribeyes and some fresh fish along with a host of chef-driven vegetarian specialties. I liked the place a lot and would like to return. It made for a very nice evening out.

 

Mario's Bistro, on the canal in Marigot was a cut above the French restaurants in Grand Case. More of "world cuisine" type of place. Vertical presentations of Chilean Sea Bass. Rissoto, Pad Thai, Roast Garlic Duck (refreshing as Magret seems to be on every menu). Mario and his wife, Martyne are two Quebecoise expats that run a very nice Caribbean restaurant along with their partner and dining room major domo, Didier. We were part of a large party. the service was friendly and very good. The food was tasty and well portioned. I had issues with my Pad Thai, but you say tomAto and I say tomAHto ::shrug::. A pleasant evening. I'd return.

 

On Friar's Bay Beach, there are two beach bar/restaurants. One has the usual stuff catering to an American tourist crowd (caesar salad thirty ways, etc. . .), though it did have a rabbit stew. It was a little weird how the Yanks congregate on the one side of the bay and the Euros on the other. Down the beach a ways is a French beach bar/nightclub. There was an enormous chalkboard menu in front listing the days specials and as soon as I saw the Grilled Sardines and the "Pied de Cochon" I was hooked. My wife had the spinach and cheese pie (not a quiche, a pie baked in pate brisee). My friend had the half lobster with mayonaise. My three trotters came out breaded and fried with some grain mustard vinaigrette. My wife slid half of her enormous accompanying frisee aux lardons on to my plate and I guess you could say I was in hog heaven ::groan::. I'm coming back for the grilled sardines. The place was a perfect beach restaurant.

 

Complaint: insisting that we read the menu's English translation as it was a poor one and did no justice to what these dishes are. I had to insist that they leave the menu in French.

 

We suspected by the menus we saw on the Marigot waterfront, that these places were probably going to disappoint. However, we found a delightful lunch place filled with local business people in town and away from the water.

 

Le Saint-Severin was perfect after a morning af print hunting in the local galleries. As soon as I saw the outdoors specials list contained Choucroute garnie, I was hooked. Disappointed that the choucroute was the Saturday special (this was Friday), I settled for the Salade Gesiers d'Oie. Served a top lentils along with some dressed romaine lettuce and with a couple of glasses of the house Bourdeaux; I found it to be another worthwhile, well-prepared and satisfying lunch. My friend had the day's special. A heaping plate of Bouef en Daube with noodles. I tasted some of this. Hearty and excellent. Really outstandingly well flavored

 

We had one more dinner left and decided to take it at the recommended Le Bisto Nu. A perfect capper to a week of over-stuffing ourselves.

 

Ris de Veau aux Pleurottes, Coq au Vin, Osso Bucco, Spaghetti Bolognese, and an enormous portion of foie gras terrine. really *three* giant slabs of duck foie gras torchon. I had to share it with the table. I topped this with a chocalate mousse. Jean Claude hustles about all the tables in the room. I was amazed. Drinks, wine, apps, order taking, serving, coffee service. The man was amazing. The most satisfying meal of the trip.

 

Lest people misread aspects of this post; I don't mean to shout disdain for fine dining. It's just that when you aim for high marks and miss, it is glaring. Unfortunatly, I still must pay the monetary price for the failed attempt. It makes meals not bad, but unsatisfying. In this type of culinarily difficult island resort type of environment, it just makes sense to lower you expectations and then be pleasantly surprised by restaurants and bistros that exceed them.

 

The bills on the French side are usually presented in euros with a dollar conversion at the bottom. Some restaurants advertise one to one, euro to dollar, conversions, but ascribing to the "no free lunch" philosophy, I assumed that there was a "gotcha" built into that process. Some restaurants are "service comprise" and some are not. Check for that line on the check. If it's there, leave a small amount of tip. If it's not there; I suppose 15% would do, but it's difficult breaking my own 20% rule. I probably overtipped.

 

Golf at Mullet Bay is akin to any well maintained public course in the states, though the tab is about 150/round. That's an improvement on course conditions 8 years ago. The 5-600 dollar tab at the new St Regis, Troon track across the sound on Anguilla was too rich for my blood.

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