It was very nice to see that some things in the Cook Islands don't change. We last traveled here two and a half years ago and Windjammer Restaurant was our favourite place to eat on Rarotonga. Last month we returned to our favourite island paradise, and I can definitely say that it's still the best place to dine on Rarotonga.
The sands of time have made some changes to the menu, though I recognise some dishes from last time still. Mostly they have reduced the serving sizes. They used to be enormous. For me this is a benefit, as this time I can manage three courses of the lovely food. As the original serving sizes were about islander expectations, I wonder if this means locals don't dine here anymore? On the two evenings I dined here recently, the other patrons seemed to be tourists by and large.
One of the new dishes we tried was the Crispy Gingered Pork Wontons (NZ$14.50) which came with a lovely daikon and cucumber salad and a paw paw dipping sauce. I have waxed lyrical about the Cook Island produce in other reviews, but their vegetables are really quite lovely. They burst with flavour, making blander vegetables like cucumber and daikon really pop.
What's not to like about char-grilled seafood served up warm on a mixed leaf salad with crunchy pieces of shaved kumera over the top? The Seafood Salad Entrée / Main (NZ$17.50/NZ$29.00) shown above is the entree version. The prawns, squid, scallops and fish were all great quality.
Tuna is a speciality of the Cook Islands, and it is so good they export it to Japan (we all know how fussy they are about their tuna). I have honestly never had tuna as good as even the most basic shops offerings on the Cook Islands. This dish is far from basic, it's Szechwan Pepper Seared Tuna Sashimi (NZ$16.00) served with cumin spiced red lentils, some more crisp daikon radish, rocket, ginger and a miso dressing. I am definitely a heathen, but I did want for a smidgen of soy (though not so much of a heathen that I asked for it).
The menu here is so tempting, they even managed to get me to break my resolve to eat fish based mains at every meal. I broke it for this Tequila And Lime Chicken Salad Entrée/Main (NZ$15.50/NZ$27.00) which is shown (blurrily) here in a main size. They've marinated the beaten out chicken breast in lime and Tequila, then rolled it in coconut shavings before frying it in what I assume is coconut oil. The bits of coconut that drop off are the crunchy elements in the salad of oak leaf lettuce, fresh coconut shavings, green paw paw, daikon and cucumber, with a minty dressing. It's an excellent salad and my recording of method here is in part so I remember to try it at home.
On the other visit we made, I did manage to stick to my fish main resolution, and my dedication was rewarded with this dish, the Ocean Fresh Fish Of The Day (NZ$27.50). Today it's Swordfish, caught that day (I met the fisherman at the Avarua Harbour with his haul of large fish), my own piece of Rarotonga’s finest. They pan-seared it, and then baked it until it was just cooked through. I loved the texture and thought it was handled superbly. The chef then perched it on a wonderful kumera and fresh herb hash, surrounded it with a heavenly Béarnaise sauce, perched a flavoursome oven roasted tomato, a piece of lemon and some fresh basil complete the masterpiece.
Now my dining companion didn't listen to our charming waiter (who has stayed with the restaurant since our first visit) when he suggested we should eat what we can't get everyday (yes, that's fish). He ordered the Hoi Sin And Honey Marinated Pork Loin (NZ$29.50) which of course is pig imported from New Zealand.
He liked the roasted pork steaks on creamy scalloped potatoes and ratatouille vegetables topped with a tamarind and orange glaze so much that he ordered the exact same thing on our second visit! Now I'd almost consider that sacrilege if I hadn't also had to order the same dessert, er... twice.
This plate of Cinnamon Spring Rolls filled with Banana and Mars Bar and served with Coconut Ice Cream and Chocolate Ganache (NZ$9.00) was so good I couldn't speak. Luckily I saw another woman struck by the same affliction. She scraped every last dribble out of her bowl, with very little shame, and only a modicum of dignity.
And yes, it was just as good the second time I had it.
As you can see, I am completely unable to focus on my dining companion's Coconut Panna Cotta with Forest Berries and Tuille Biscuit (NZ$9) on one visit. I completely forgot to photograph his Honey, Ginger and Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee (NZ$9) on the second visit. Apparently they were both great. I have no recollection, but I have a great excuse, I was lost in my cinnamon spring rolls. Ladies, if you ever find yourself here and you fancy a little taste of heaven...
Main Road - Arorangi, Rarotonga, The Cook Islands