Once we had booked our plane tickets and rental house for the trip to Curacao, I couldn't wait to go into restaurant research mode. That is always my favorite part of travel prep.
Of all the restaurant websites I looked at, the menu that intrigued me the most was Zest Mediterranean. It's in an area of the island called Jan Thiel Beach. It's one of the many restaurants at the Papagayo Beach Resort, which feels very similar to Atlantis in the Bahamas.
From our rental house in St. Willibrordus it was an hour drive to Jan Thiel Beach. We broke up the ride there by stopping in Willemstad.
When we arrived for our dinner reservation, we couldn't get over how different the vibe was on this part of the island. It felt much more suburban and the resort was packed with families.
Zest is located just inside the resort's entrance. We gave our name to the host and he walked us to a table on the edge of their outdoor patio, overlooking a massive infinity pool, and beyond that, the ocean. It was a clear evening and the temperature was perfect. We were happy campers!
As we looked over the menu, I started to remember all the dishes that had attracted me to it in the first place.
To begin, the chef provided an amuse bouche. Each person was delivered a teeny, tiny salmon tartare. I gave mine to the friend sitting next to me, but I was very impressed by the presentation.
All three ladies said it was quite tasty!
For drinks, two of us ordered rosé.
The other two gals ordered gin and tonics. Gin is very big in Curacao and many restaurants have an entire section of their cocktail menu devoted to creative gin and tonics. At Zest, they bring you a glass with the gin and cucumbers and then you pour over the tonic to your liking.
After we'd placed our food order, our server delivered us a basket of bread with olive oil and olive tapenade on the side. We were all very into the tapenade. I'm pretty sure we wiped that bowl clean.
For the appetizer round, we shared the burrata, which came with charred eggplant, cherry tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and flatbread triangles on the side.
We all agreed this felt like a very small amount of burrata cheese for a dish where that's supposed to be the star. That said, all of the garnishes were delicious and the paper thin flatbread kept you from getting too full before your entree.
For the main course, two of the girls ordered the risotto. All three restaurants we dined at for dinner in Curacao had a risotto on the menu.
A few bites in, one of the girls said, "This is in my top three risottos of all time, and the other two are ones I cooked myself. It's flavorful, creamy and cooked to perfection." Another friend added, "There's a lot of textures, which makes every bite exciting."
Next to me, a friend ordered the seafood pasta, which came with lobster, shrimp and clams. It smelled so good that even I considered sticking a fork in there!
When I asked how she was enjoying it, she replied, "The lobster sauce has great flavor. The seafood is really fresh and there's a ton of it. This is a good portion size. It felt really decadent, but not too rich. It wasn't heavy at all for a pasta dish. Honestly, I think this is my favorite dish of the whole trip!"
Since I had risotto at two of our other dinners, I opted from something from Zest's appetizer section - the ravioli with peas, ricotta cheese and mint.
The pasta was fresh and the filling tasted super bright and flavorful. I forgot how much I like peas in pasta! That said, there were only four raviolis because it was a starter, so I was definitely still hungry, even after finishing it.
Zest does have a dessert menu, but it's very upscale and all we really wanted was ice cream. We had seen on Instagram, @ZestCuracao, that the resort had an ice cream place, so we left in search of it.
Lucky for us, it was just around the corner! It's called Dulce and they make something called a Shuffle. It's like a McDonalds McFlurry. It's vanilla frozen custard, then they mix in the candy of your choice. Naturally, I went with M&Ms.
Our meal at Zest was truly divine. The atmosphere was wonderful, the water views were beautiful and the food was exceptionally delicious. The ice cream Shuffle was the cherry on top!