We have been visiting the charming island of Ambergris Caye, off the coast of Belize, for over a decade now, falling in love quickly, so much so that we purchased our time share our first visit, fourth day in, and Jack does not normally make spontaneous purchases. The relationship started out passionately, as most do, and has had its ups and downs, but the love affair remains and the lure keeps drawing us back. Part of the attraction, initially, was the seclusion of the island, which allowed us quality time with our children, as they were teenagers, away from the world of AOL messaging and cell phones. Part of the attraction is the charm of the locals, many who’ve become friends over the years. But for me, it’s so much about the culinary adventures; fresh conch ceviche made on the back of a boat, Wahoo steaks grilled on the beach after a day of fishing outside of the reef, Caribbean lobster one hour out of the water, chirmole (soup), jerk, fry jacks, rice stewed with beans and coconut milk, and stuffed grouper at Capricorn, all washed down with a Lighthouse Lager, the “girly beer” version of Belikin Beers, the beer of Belize. During our most recent visit, May of 2014, we enjoyed two special meals at Aji Tapa Bar & Restaurant, lunch and dinner.
Aji is named after the chili pepper, my favorite pepper for fresh ceviche, and is a part of the Bella Vista Guest Homes & Retreat 2 ½ miles north of San Pedro. You can get here by boat, or by “road”, although I use the word road very loosely. You can rent golf carts on the island, and there is a sand road on the back of the island that is passable during the dry season, but water filled puddles and bugs take it over during rainy season. There’s a palapa roof over the bar area, but most tables are open air seating, in the sand, under gumbo limbo trellises, almond trees, coconut trees and sea grape trees, all romantically lit with twinkling lights in the evening.
The menu is a mix of tapas, local favorites, seafood and vegetarian dishes, fusing Spanish and Belizean cuisine. For lunch, I enjoyed a bowl of Carib Carrot Cream soup, made with coconut milk, carrot, ginger, curry and onions pureed into a beautiful and flavorful treat, and the best salad I have had in Belize in 10 plus years. I’ve always been disappointed in the lack of fresh vegetables in Belize, but my El Meyer salad of fresh, crispy iceberg lettuce, tomato, carrot, onion, green peppers, garbanzo beans, sliced boiled egg (the BEST eggs ever, since Ireland) and mozzarella cheese with a fresh papaya vinaigrette dressing (now there’s an idea to explore).
During our second visit, for dinner, we drove the golf cart down the “back road” from Captain Morgan’s, parked in the rear “parking lot”, and as we strolled through the property to the waterfront restaurant, crossing a bridge over the lagoon, we saw a crocodile swimming lazily along. Yes, a 14 foot, or so, crocodile on the way to dinner. Nothing unusual in Belize, I guess. We sat at a romantic, candle lit table under a twinkling gumbo limbo trellis, listening to the water slap up against the dock. We enjoyed perfectly crafted mojitos, shared delicious, fresh conch ceviche and gambas al ajillo; shrimp simmered in olive oil, garlic and aji peppers. I ordered cioppino (fish stew) that this evening was made with scallops, clams, snapper, shrimp and calamari in a tomato-seafood broth and a scoop of coconut rice. Jack enjoyed pescado a la plancha, grilled fish of the day, which was fresh grouper, served with rice and perfectly grilled asparagus. Service was friendly and attentive, the food was beautifully presented, and flawlessly prepared with a perfect marriage of flavors. Another memorable culinary experience with the man I adore on the quaint island of Ambergris Caye.
I’ll be sharing much more about Belizean people, places and things, but in the meantime, feel free to contact me directly if you’re thinking about visiting this little piece of paradise and want to hear more.
peter nolan says
very nice article about one of our favourite dining spots . There is so much more on Aji s menue . but there is also so many good restaurants to chose from I am sure you will get to most in time , regards to you and jack and look forward to seeing more of you here on ambergris caye.
Robin King says
Thank you, Peter. I could write about San Pedro all day, every day. You’re right, there will be more to come about the wonderful people, places and things of Belize. See you soon!
San Pedro is la isla bonita!
Robin King says
We couldn’t agree more. We have been coming since 2003, almost every year. Our children have learned to dive there, and we have built so many family memories. Although we didn’t make it down in 2015, we will be spending 12 glorious days in your country next year, and we cannot wait!
Thanks for reading, and commenting.