So when you are on an island in the southern Caribbean, what’s the cuisine you crave? In my mind it isn’t sushi, but that’s what my bride wanted and in fairness, I never turn down good sushi. So can you get good sushi on an island? It turns out you can. Omakase at the Manchebo Beach Resort was the destination. A quick ten minute cab ride brought us to the resort, not before passing the beach tennis open in full swing (not exactly the US Open in Queens, but on it’s scale it was an interesting find). If you’re not paying attention, you will walk right by Omakase. We literally did just that. Why is it so had to find? Because it occupies half the bar inside the ChopHouse steakhouse at the resort. Hmm, small, hidden sushi gem? I like where we’re going here.
Once seated at the bar (there were10 seats at the bar and three 4 tops that comprised the seating area for the restaurant) we were greeted by Jason. Jason is fucking fabulous. Charming, quick witted, a total sweetheart, and as it turns out, a knucklehead like us. Check us out on Instagram for pictures of our new best friend.
What drew us here were the rave reviews and the fact that they offer an omakase experience. In full disclosure, I’ve become a bit of an omakase whore. I seek this experience out whenever I travel, and have enjoyed Nobu in Las Vegas, Sushi Roku in Scottsdale, and Matsuhisa in Denver. Why do I set that stage? My expectations are high, and I’m a spoiled little bitch when it comes to this experience.
Considering we can eat like champs (fat, drunk, you get the idea) We were all in on the omakase, but it was a four course experience. I’m used to a 7-8 course experience, and based on the price point I assumed this was a smaller offering so we supplemented with two rolls (Caterpillar and Rainbow). Some Sake and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and we were ready to indulge. First up was the obligatory miso soup. A standard in most sushi experiences, this was delightful. Just a hint of steam rising off the broth served in a stark white square bowl. At first sight, this was different. Plenary of nori floating throughout, and cubes of tofu that may require a fork to cut. Not too salty (my knock on standard miso soup), aromatic,delicious. Toward the end we both picked up our bowls to make sure we didn’t miss a bit of it. Stay classy bitches.
Next up was a crab salad. Fresh crab, seaweed, roe and black sesame seeds. Again delightful and fresh. Interesting, we didn’t order these two plates, and the menu didn’t reveal any inclusions with the meal. Hmm..
Next up the chef presented a plate of sushi and sashimi, and explained that this was the first of two plates as part of the third course. Oooohhhh, got it. The four course Omakase included soup and salad as two courses. While delightful, my expectation was something wildly different. So, expectations reset, ready to proceed. I’m now viewing this as a sushi meal, and less as the omakase experience that I was used to. That said, the sushi was a hit.
Thinly sliced salmon, tuna and yellowtail sashimi, accompanied by shrimp, mackerel and eel sushi. Nothing was too cold, and all smelled remarkably fresh. The sashimi simply melted in your mouth, like you would expect a perfectly cooked steak to do, except, you know, it’s fish. The sushi was also prepared right, with hints of rice vinegar and wasabi. Just enough, but nothing overpowering the guests of honor on these rice pillows. For god’s sake, don’t use fucking soy sauce on a treat like this! If I wanted to taste soy sauce I could put it in a glass and drink it. Don’t sully this treat with the stuff. To say this plate didn’t last long would be an understatement. Next up was plate two of course three (bootleg) which was an array of three menu rolls. Ok, now that I’ve accepted this meal as a menu tasting experience, I can review it appropriately. Two out of three were tasty. Caterpillar roll (frankly a terrible name, who wants to eat something associated with those hairy crawling beasts?) Tuna, salmon and avocado. Very pleasing and refreshing. Surf & Turf roll, asparagus and tempura shrimp, but not overly fried, topped with grilled tenderloin, sweet and savory. Then there was the Ebitem roll. Jason wanted us to try it, but we saw cream cheese in the description and don’t typically enjoy cream cheese in sushi. However, it was on the plate, and we decided to try it, because you can’t register a valid opinion without trying it. This is what we teach my son, so I guess we have to play by those rules. Also, as my son would say, “it’s not my favorite, but I tried it.” Our opinion on cream cheese and sushi was confirmed. No shot of enjoying this one. While I figured the cream cheese would add a creamy and tart element to the right roll, this didn’t do it. The roll was tart to begin with, and the cream cheese just made it more tart. Not our favorite. If this is your jam, have at it, but not us.
Next up were our other two rolls, caterpillar and Rainbow. Caterpillar described before, just as yummy, and Rainbow, which was avacodo and cucumber topped with salmon, tuna and crab (we debated whether or not it was imitation crab). Again, delightful and fresh, at the risk of sounding repetitive. Clearly we were off our chopstick game as we each had pieces fall apart on us, but it sure felt like operator error.
The Sake hit the spot, but it wasn’t listed on the menu, nor did I see the brand. It was mild, and accompanied the first few dishes well. We followed that up with a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, which was like drinking a sun kissed grapefruit. However I’m not one to chill my wine, and the first things to hit the bar were two chilled wine glasses. That was followed by the chilled wine bottle and the ice bucket. Oh well.
Now as to the service, this made the experience. Our server, Jason, was a trip. He endeared himself to us immediately. He was hysterical, like a close friend who always has something witty to say (much like me). He captured some great pictures for us, and made his way into a few selfies that will end up on the Instagram for sure. He also refused to give us the check until he came up with some surprise for us as we were on our honeymoon. Eventually a piece of cake with a goddamn Roman Candle in it showed up, and he sang “Endless Love” to us, knowing about half the words. Our own personal a dancing queen.
Now when you go out, take the time to talk to the people charged with your experience. Besides Jason, we had a chat with Mylene, the chef. She was hands on both in preparing the meal and in serving. She stopped by our side of the bar and we talked about our honeymoon, the resort where the restaurant was located, and he 23 years in Aruba. She was very proud that in the three years since opening Omakase she has had many customers follow her here from her past restaurants. She also was proud of the customers who come weekly, not just the expected tourist crowd. This endeavor is a labor of love for her and it shows in the greeting we received, the serivce, and the conversation. Get to know Mylene, Jason, and the rest of the staff at omakase for sure.
We went looking for sushi and found it. With the correct expectations you cannot be disappointed. Take your time, savor the meal, and enjoy some laughs. That’s an appropriate dining experience away from the tourist traps. The healthier option when endeavoring to be fat, drunk and fancy.