Everything’s totally Irie mon
Let’s put it like this people–my”jones” is hitting me hard. I’m actually craving the beautiful, delicious flavors I had occasion to enjoy recently in Grand Bahama. Freeport may be the nation’s second city, but the food they’re serving at Iries Seafood Restaurant at the Our Lucaya Beach& Golf Resort does not take a back seat to anyone or anything, anywhere.
I had dinner at Iries Seafood Restaurant, not knowing what to expect, except that everyone I spoke to on the hotel property bragged about the Creamy Grouper Chowder, insisting that I try it. As I perused the menu, it was intriguing to notice just how much Bahamian influences, flavors and ingredients dominated the menu. On the two-soup portion of the menu, along with the chowder was a Pigeon and Root Vegetable Broth(with a tagliatelle of vegetables)–very interesting.
I’d also been advised that the Minced Lobster Spring Roll(Bahamian minced lobster in crisp spring roll wrapper with a finger pepper dipping sauce)was a must-have item, but the thought of a Sweet Corn and Plantain Fritter(fresh corn and plantain in a light batter with hosin remoulade)blew away my thoughts and really made me go hmmmmm!Wonder what that tastes like?I’d had conch, cod fish, lobster and shrimp fritters, but never sweet corn and plantain.
And the word duck, will absolutely make me do an about face any day. And I almost got stuck on the idea of their Goat Cheese and Mango Salad with Pickled Duck(field greens with praline pecans, Long Island pickled duck and oven-dried mango slices tossed in a seagrape and sundried tomato oil), but I managed to force my eyes to the entree section where I was met with main dish items like Thyme and Coconut Breaded Queen Conch on Skewers(served with mango and red pepper tartar sauce and homemade sweet potato fries), Grilled Wild Mutton Snapper Fillet(marinated with sour orange and cilantro leaves on a bed of spinach with caramelized sweet onions), Cast Iron Roasted Deep Water Nassau Grouper(topped with sugar banana and papaya chutney in a shellfish saffron broth), Slow Baked Rock Lobster(glazed with plantain and herb butter with island stir-fried cumin vegetables, Iries Trio(combination of jerk-roasted salmon medallion, Kalik marinated seared shrimp and poached jumbo scallops with a pigeon pea and conch rice cake in a lobster reduction), Braised Center Cut Oxtail(with coconut milk and red beans on a Yukon gold potato and rosemary mash)–to name a few.
They weren’t slouches in the dessert department either with Bahamian flavors woven into classic desserts–Guava Tiramisu(lady fingers, coffee flavored liqueur and sweet guava cream), Roasted Mango Cheesecake(with mango coulis and toasted pistachio nuts), Island Key Lime Pie(with fresh berries), Sugar Banana and Coconut Filled Layer Cake(with a Baileys and cinnamon cream) and Rum Cake and Ice Cream(with vanilla bean ice cream topped with caramelized nuts.
As I tried to decide what to order, a colleague from my sister newspaper, The Freeport News, rang my cell phone wondering where I was at.(He had stopped by the hotel to say hi). I told him I had just sat down to dinner and that I would be delighted if he’d join me.(That gave me a chance to catch up with a colleague I’d known for 21 years on his adopted home turf.)
With so many people”laying their heads on the chopping block”about the Creamy Grouper Chowder, I just had to go with that. But I also wanted to see what they were raving about with the Minced Lobster Spring Roll and the Sweet Corn and Plaintain Fritter really had me intrigued, so instead of getting complete orders I asked for just a sample of one fritter and a half order of the lobster spring roll. Just wanted to satisfy my curiosity.
I went with the Goat Cheese and Mango Salad with Pickled Duck–anything that says goat cheese, mango and duck, I’m all for, and the Slow Baked Rock Lobster for my entree. My colleague who is allergic to shellfish went with the chowder and the Braised Center Cut Oxtail.
The Creamy Grouper Chowder left me speechless–nearly that is. It was really good. Creamy and smooth on the palate, the chowder was finished with crisp, blanched, okra slices and topped with crisped potatoes strings for just the right amount of texture to make it over the top and fabulous.
The fritter’s taste was also surprising, a little on the sweet side with notes of cinnamon, it was a pleasing change from the more savory appetizers that I’m used to. After tasting just the one, I knew that I could definitely return and do a complete order.
The lobster spring in comparison to the chowder and the sweet corn and plantain fritter, was a little disappointing. A big fan of spicy flavors, it was too tame for my palate. And the Goat Cheese and Mango Salad with Pickled Duck did not leave me awed. To me it was just okay. The flavors were again just a little too tame for my palate.
But the Slow Baked Rock Lobster glazed with plantain and herb butter with island stir fried cumin vegetables was a home run dish for me. The lobster was cooked to perfection and paired with creamy sweet potato slices and lovely crisp vegetables that made my mouth want to sing.(And believe you me, I can’t carry a tune to save my life). It’s a dish I’d return to Iries for again and again–and again.
I finished my meal with the Roasted Mango Cheesecake with mango coulis and pistachio nuts which gave the creamy cake a little texture. I think I floated back to my room in a haze of nirvana from the delicious food I’d consumed. Even the dishes that did not rock my boat couldn’t detract from the items that were absolutely stellar.
My colleague who lives in Freeport, admitted that in the 10 years he’s resided on island, he had never dined at Iries. And that he and his wife frequented Willy Broadleaf and China Beach restaurants. After the fabulous meal we enjoyed together, he vowed to return with his wife.
With my”jones”hitting me hard at the memory of those flavors and menu items, when–not if–I return to Our Lucaya Beach& Golf Resort, one of the first restaurants I’d make a beeline for is Iries Seafood Restaurant. While I would like to think I’d opt to try the Grouper and Scallop Martini(rum-cured Nassau grouper and fresh sea scallops marinated in olive oil balsamic vinegar, tossed with tomato, avocado, a trio of peppercorn and sea salt and a splash of key lime martini), the Conch and Blue Fin Crab Cakes(with a bell pepper and caper chutney), or the Iries Trio(combination of jerk-roasted salmon medallion, Kalik marinated seared shrimp and poached jumbo scallops with a pigeon pea and conch rice cake in a lobster reduction)which was another highly recommended item from a number of people on property, I’d be hard-pressed not to reacquaint myself with the meal that I’ve tried, tested and proven true.