Dinner under palm trees at Wilhelmina
The story of a dinner and espresso martinis at 10 PM under the palm trees at Wilhelmina.
Wilhelmina, named after the longest reigning Queen of The Netherlands has been a restaurant held to a high standard here in Aruba. For years I have seen people going there on special occasions and fancy dinners all over social media but I have not had the chance of going myself. On their website, Wilhemina describes itself as a casual, elegant restaurant inside a beautiful romantic "speakeasy city garden". Here is the location
Walking into an almost full house on a Wednesday night is proof of its popularity among locals and foreigners, though it felt like the American crowd was predominant. It is highly recommended that you make a reservation if you plan on going. I was under the impression they do one sitting per night.
After being led to our table for two, we asked for cocktails, for me the right way to start dinner is with a Martini. So a Cosmo and a Dirty Martini quickly made their way to our table. They have a cocktail menu, but most of them seemed to be on the sweeter side so we preferred to go for the usual.
You are welcomed with an amuse bouche by the Chef. Croquettes and mushroom soup. The croquettes undoubtedly were the star.
The appetizer section of the menu has a nice variety of dishes, ingredients, and proteins to choose from. As it has become a rule, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options are present. We decided to order two different ones and share.
Homemade Kimchi salad $15
What you get according to the menu: Korean fermented Napa cabbage with secret ingredients, mizuna salad, Aruban white button mushrooms, edamame, radish, black and white sesame seeds, scallions, and teriyaki sauce.
Honestly, for a salad that has Kimchi on its title, I felt it was very poor in Kimchi. Found a couple of pieces in the bottom of the bowl. It is well-dressed and well-seasoned overall but if you are going to go for Kimchi, you want to taste it in every bite. Kimchi is very distinctive and probably not that friendly of a flavor, but I assume that everyone who orders is a fan of it, which is why it felt underwhelming. For portion size, I would say, side salad vibes.
Wilhelmina's Ravioli $21
What you get according to the menu: Ravioli filled with braised beef short rib, foie gras & mushroom, served with baby spinach, roasted Portobello & Parmesan Reggiano cheese, truffle-balsamic dressing, and mushroom sauce.
Two middle-sized ravioli stuffed with the tastiest beef short rib. A great dish overall. I would absolutely say it should be moved to the entrées and upsized it. I would eat a full bowl of these. I just did the math and 8 of them for a full portion would make it $84 😅
Indonesian Roasted Pork $38
What you get according to the menu: Pork marinated overnight in a traditional Indonesian sauce, stewed and served with fresh pasta, chunks of shrimp, edamame soybeans, and light spicy papaya chutney.
The favorite of the night. Though some chunks of pork felt a little dry, the sauce, the chutney, and the spices were a great combination. It comes with a side of Asian noodles, not pasta, which was fantastic! Chunks of shrimp and edamame were tossed into it.
Braised Beef Short Ribs 10 oz. $54
What you get according to the menu: Braised classically for 5 hours in red wine jus served with truffle cabbage, crispy polenta, and porcini sauce.
It was funny that I could not get an explanation about that truffle cabbage when I was ordering it. I wanted to know if that was going to be steamed or stir-fried and what the truffle had to do with it, but I had to conform to the expression "It's cabbage". The short rib: absolutely tender and delicious. But the dish fell short with the polenta. I really thought it was going to be something else than just 3 one-inch pieces of fried funchi. The cabbage, that serves as a base, it's probably tossed with some truffle paste.
To supplement it, I order a side of the same noodles that came with the pork. Very good noodles! $7
Here is the full menu for those curious: WILHELMINA MENU
Instead of dessert, we went rogue. Two espresso martinis each. They were fantastic. Of course, no creamy BS, the only way an espresso martini should be had. $16 each.
I would lie if I say that my first visit to Wilhelmina was a triumph. Based on the praise I have heard and read, it did fall short for me. The service, which for the most part was fantastic (especially the guy that served us the martinis who was very cool), was clouded with a moment I would say should never happen: the waiter brought us the check before we even finished our martinis, unrequested. Just say we're having our last call to the bar or be subtle about reaching the closing time. No need to bring the check without even asking if we wanted something more. I did want another martini, btw that I almost had to chug because the pressure of leaving the place was really present after they started to stare at us.
For the rest, everybody was very kind and gracious. Thanks to Jeffrey for coming by to say hi.
It is a high ticket after all and all things should be considered when you spend $150 per person. I'd probably give it a second chance, I am second-chances kind of guy.
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