Tag Archives: food

Rarotonga, Cook Islands — Dining at Charlie’s and Trader Jacks


Me at Charlie’s

Today is a twofer — two Rarotonga, Cook Islands restaurant reviews. The first one on today’s menu (see what I did there?) is Charlie’s in the Takitumu District on the south side of Rarotonga. Charlie’s was easy to get to from our rental in the adjoining Muri District, about a fifteen-minute walk. Ursula read about this place before we arrived, and she told me that Charlie’s is famous for their fish sandwich. So, after seeing one walked by, we opted to split a sandwich and order of fries. A good thing, because it was massive! But first you have to go to the ordering window to place place your order:

Charlie’s ordering station

What you get when retrieve your order is an enormous amount of wonderfully fresh fries and a huge sandwich with a delightfully crisp fillet of fresh island fish. We included with our shared dinner a couple of Bundaberg ginger beers, which we fell in love with during a prior trip to Australia:

Charlie’s HUGE fish sandwich, fries, and our favorite ginger beer

Now, normally, a restaurant review wouldn’t be worth much with only one item in the review. But you’re in luck. We shared a table with a charming Australian couple who allowed me to photograph their dinners and who shared with me their impressions. First up is the New Zealand grilled rump steak with island vegetables, which smelled wonderful and was proclaimed by the diner a winner:

Charlie’s — New Zealand beef

Her husband opted for the fish platter, which didn’t look to me very appetizing. Apparently, our dining companion agreed. Good, but not great was his take.

Charlie’s Fish of the Day

One great thing everyone agreed upon were the sunset views from Charlie’s, which I showed you during last week’s Fun Photo Friday. An even more spectacular sunset from Charlie’s awaits you this Friday.

Sunset at Charlie’s Café

Now it’s off to Trader Jacks in Avarua, the largest town located on the island. It’s on the north shore of Rarotonga.

Trader Jacks in Avarua

This place was good enough to warrant two visits, so you’ll see four different meals reviewed here.

Ursula ready to chow down at Trader Jacks

Trader Jacks has two dining areas. One is inside, but what’s the fun in that?

Trader Jacks indoor dining

The other offers great views of surf, sand, and even the rusting remains from an old shipwreck dating back to 1916.

Trader Jacks covered outdoor dining

Wreck of the S.S. Matai (1916)

But we’re here for the food, starting with my fish and chips. Neither fish nor chip was anything to write home about, but they were passable. The fries were obviously of the frozen variety, and a quick conversation with the waitress confirmed that. They were good, but not great. The fish fillet was moist and tender, but when you fry up a piece of fish this thick it becomes difficult to achieve a crispy coating. If you do achieve it, it doesn’t last long.

Trader Jacks fish ‘n’ chips

Ursula’s seafood chowder was a better choice. She loved it, and I concur with her assessment. It was creamy, and chock-full of seafood and root vegetables. Accompanying this tasty chowder was a generous serving of buttered garlic toast.

Trader Jacks seafood chowder with garlic toast

Unfortunately, Trader Jacks does not serve our favorite Bundaberg, so we opted for a ginger beer from Schweppes. Again, okay, but not great.

Ginger beer

Two days after this visit we again found ourselves taking the local bus around the island back to Avarua. We’d already tried Muri Night Market a couple of times, so we decided to head back to Trader Jacks. Having learned my lesson on fish and chips, I opted this trip for the pizza. I was not disappointed. This particular one was their Traders Supreme, which came with pepperoni, Italian sausage, smoked ham, onion, capsicum, tomato, an olives. I ordered the pizza extra crisp, and that’s exactly what I received.

Trader Jacks “Traders Supreme” pizza

Ursula ordered this time a dish that is native to Rarotonga. It’s called ika mata, and it’s kind of the Cook Islands equivalent to poke, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the shared Polynesian ancestry of the early Hawaiian and Cook Island settlers. Trader Jacks‘ version is called Te Ika Mata, and it includes fresh raw island tuna marinated in lime juice from Mauke. This is topped off with coconut cream and fresh vegetables. Steamed taro root is served as a side.

Te Ika Mata — local tuna, lime juice, coconut cream, vegetables, served with taro

Next week this blog leaves behind the marvelous Cook Islands for Sydney, Australia, which is precisely what we did this past February. From Sydney we’ll be jumping aboard a cruise ship for a complete circumnavigation of the Australian continent, with a follow-on cruise around New Zealand. Hope to see you there!

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Rarotonga, Cook Islands — Dining Al Fresco at the Muri Night Market


Dining al fresco at the Muri Night Market

Yes, you can eat cheaply on Rarotonga. And well. And with lots of choices.

Baby Pancakes

Four times a week, weather permitting, in the heart of Muri Beach Village on Rarotonga’s east coast is the famous Muri Night Market.

Smoothies

Here you’ll find island food, desserts, Chinese and Indian inspired vendors, and even American favorites such as . . .

There’s even pizza!

Here is a sampling of some of the menus you’ll find here:

My favorite place was the Noodle Tent.

My favorite — the Noodle Tent

Interesting story here the first night we went — the charming lady you see above took orders and plated the food. Her husband is in the background doing the cooking. Neither had change for my order. Even so, she gave my order of noodles to me and told me to come back later. Which I did, as soon as I got change at another tent selling desserts. Here’s my scrumptious noodle order being prepared:

Great Noodles!

This is a really great place to get some of the local flavor (pun intended) and mingle with the locals as well as the tourists staying near Muri Beach. Indeed, our bungalow was within about a ten-minute walk of the Night Market.

Smoothies

The cooks really know their way around a hotplate, or a grill:

Cooking at the Muri Night Market

But get to the Muri Night Market early, because the vendors start selling out of their most popular items fairly quickly. Once something on the menu is gone, it’s gone!

Lots of choices at the Muri Night Market

The Muri Night Market is open from 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday and on Sunday. But, again, get their early or your choices will be limited.

Local Charm

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Baltic Cruise — Gdańsk Lunch


Gdańsk

Touring on foot around Gdańsk, Poland is a lot of fun.

Gdańsk

The buildings are colorful, the streets charming, and the architectural details photogenic:

Gdańsk

Gdańsk

But eventually you’re going to need to stop and refuel. So let’s take a look at some typical Polish dining fare, beginning with pierogi (not to be confused with Russian piroshki — my recipe for that here: Fun Food Friday — Piroshki ). Pierogi is similar to a Chinese dumpling, but in this case the filling is usually a savory meat concoction, fish (such as salmon), spinach, cheese, or even potato when served as a main course:

Pierogi

In addition to dipping sauces for savory pierogi, somepierogi may instead come with a citrus squeeze:

Pierogi

Pierogi is often accompanied by different kielbasas, sauteed onion, and rustic bread:

Pierogi and kielbasa

Another traditional Polish dish is zupa ziemniaczana, typically a watery yet tasty potato soup. The one we had this day was a bit creamier than usual, and it was served in a bread bowl:

Zupa Ziemniaczana (potato soup)

And what would a Polish lunch be without a Polish beer to wash it down? This one is a Tyskie:

Tyskie beer

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