Here’s An Exotic Dining Experience You’ll Love Sharing With Family and Friends

by Megan Rodden

Rijsttafel, or “rice table” as it translates from Dutch, is an elaborate and many-faceted Indonesian meal. It consists of a dizzying assortment of small plates to be shared and sampled in a communal dining way.  Dozens of dishes in an array of textures and flavors serve to wow the diner with variety and abundance.  The Dutch created the enduring tradition of Rijsttafel during colonial times. It acted as a means to showcase the exotic spices and natural plentitude of the Indonesian archipelago.  Then, it was a feast meant to awe attendees with unfamiliar and glamorous, even peculiar creations; today, the rice table still entices and impresses guests with a bountiful and beautiful banquet of alluring flavors.  

Photo by Megan Rodden

You wouldn’t necessarily expect to encounter Rijsttafel as an offering in Belize, but this phenomenal dining experience is proudly presented twice per week at The Coppola Family’s Hideaway in Placencia, Turtle Inn

Francis and Eleanor Coppola have a long-standing love affair with al fresco, Balinese design and oriental architecture. In fact, all of the above feature prominently in Turtle Inn’s aesthetics.  Hardwood floors, thatch roofs, Indonesian artwork, handwoven tapestries and elaborately carved doors all contribute to the impression that you could be on the beaches of Bali instead of Belize.  Turtle Inn’s general manager just so happens to be a Netherlands native. He suggested that the Rijsttafel dinner would finely complement the theme of the resort’s flagship restaurant, Mare.  

Photo by Turtle Inn

Turtle Inn’s Rijsttafel: A Meal Best Enjoyed in Good Company

Mare Restaurant’s menu already features fresh seafood, often pulled directly from the nearby reef, and organic herbs and produce from the on-site gardens.  Typically, the chefs at Mare assemble offerings under traditional Italian preparations. But the Rijsttafel, served on Monday and Thursday evenings, is an unexpected and unique experience every epicurean should try. 

The original Rijsttafel feast was meant to display a banquet representative of all the far-flung regions and multi-ethnicities of Indonesia. This culinary collection aligns with Belize’s own melting pot of diverse ethnicities and varying cuisine.  Expect to sample a variety of curry, spicy sambal, fish steamed in banana leaf, grated coconut and roasted peanuts, sweet and sour pork belly, teriyaki chicken skewers, succulent shrimp, sweet plantain fritters, and loads more.

Photo by Megan Rodden

Luxuriate in this leisurely dinner and relish the profusion of flavors. Most importantly, enjoy this meal in good company, where you can share not only the many dishes but stimulating conversation as well.  The ambiance of Mare Restaurant immediately puts one at ease. It encourages you to linger in the soft lighting and gentle ocean breeze. Share a bottle of wine selected from the over 1200 award-winning vintages on display in the “wine aquarium,” a wall-to-wall glass-encased cellar.

Excellent wines from around the world round out a formidable collection of bottles from Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Inglenook Estate in Napa County.  The attentive servers at Mare are happy to recommend the perfect wine pairings to compliment your meal.  Not every vintage can hold its own against the intensity of flavors in the Rijsttafel. The Coppola Directors Cut Cabernet, however, is a top contender.

Whether you choose to stay overnight in Turtle Inn’s beachfront, thatch cottages or elsewhere on the peninsula, make scheduling this culinary experience a priority during your visit to Placencia.

Featured photo by Turtle Inn, A Coppola Family Hideaway

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