Aruba has many fine restaurants (and some that are not so fine). The best that I've encountered so far (7 trips) doesn't advertise in the tourist pamphlets.
It is called The Chef's Table. Not in a posh neighborhood, but only a few miles from Palm or Eagle beaches. Food was superb, service likewise. The setting was comfortable, clean and family oriented. Prices no higher than most.
The second best place is the restaurant at the Tiera del Sol golf course.
My wife would agree with you on the hidden gems. The one we found was La Fondue d'Aruba (we have a post about it). It is at www.lafonduearuba.com. Takle a look.
And we have put the Chef's Table on our list for the next visit.
Three times to Aruba and owners at Mariott Ocean Club. Aruba has food on par with some upper scale restaurants in the states (and some local and fast food as well).
Top 5 recommendations:
1) Flying Fishbone: Its a 20 min drive from the town(Orangestadt) but worth the drive. You eat on tables on the sand (and some in the water--couple of inches). Views are some of the best in Aruba (get a sunset seating)
2) Simply Fish: Again sand seating and beautiful sunsets. This is the Marriott Hotel's restaurant. Great food (a little on the expensive side) but well worth it.
3) Madame Jenette's is also a must. Sometimes a singer or band. Food great
4) Marina Pirata: This one is a little drive out of town (half as far as Flying Fishbone) but again very special. Used to offer FREE bottle of wine coupons (look for them at hotel or at airport). Seating is on deck with ocean under you. Lights at night let you see fish swimming around which is also nice to entertain kids. Try the barracuda (one of few restaurants i found that serves it)
5) Marandi: Used to be on the beach at end of town (but I was told they lost their lease and had to relocate). If they are open--this was one of my favorites. Owned by a dutch family that catered to your every need. If closed, try Iguanna Joe's (in town) for some of the best drinks and people watching at lunchtime.
Just discovered a new place called Pinchos. Its about 1 mile towards the airport from the Renaissance downtown. Right over the beach, literally. Water is under you. Ambiance is amazing, cool at night.Looks like a compound, but is a very nice place and has a small selection of suites for overnight stays.
Food was the best I had in my 5 day trip - steak and fish. Great everything. What a real surprise. I have been to El Gaucho, and this place ranks up there.
Also another, Yumanja, was recommended by everyone, bar staff and vacationer at the Renaissance. Right around the corner from the Renaissance. Very good.