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Celebrating Bahamian cuisine

Signature bites and sips highlighting regional ingredients in spectacular and unexpected ways have popped up on menus at Baha Mar for a limited time in honor of the country’s 45th independence on Tuesday, July 10. The gamut of offerings across the restaurants and lounges run from twists on classics layered with global techniques to cocktails that celebrate The Bahamas in a glass. The offerings are the ultimate taste of local culinary delights.

Menu additions through Tuesday, July 10 at the various outlets at the Grand Hyatt, SLS, and Rosewood, include versions of crab n’ dough, guava duff bao buns, steamed hogfish, conch kathi rolls, conch tempura, fried lionfish, curried oxtail ravioli, guava duff French toast, conch chowder and lobster sandwich, as well as delicious libations.

So much to try. So little time.

With the special menu items unveiled on Thursday, and knowing they would only be available until close of venues on Tuesday, July 10, I had a decision to make, and a plan to try as many of them as I could in a dining experience that I’ve always dreamed of doing, but hadn’t — dine in as many restaurants as I could in one night. But there had to be a method to my madness, and I couldn’t stray from my intention to dine on the Independence specials at each outlet. My eyes would not stray to menu items that are tried and tested and that I love and would have time and again, or a dish that I wanted to try, but hadn’t as yet, because if that happened, I would never make it through.

Dining plan set — the result was five restaurants in one night — Café Madeleine, Stix, Katsuya, 3 Tides Fish House, and Cleo.

My original plan had me at Stix first for the appetizer portion of their crab n’ dough; then on to Katsuya for the conch tempura which should not be too large of a portion; followed by 3 Tides Fish House for the curried oxtail ravioli appetizer; and closing out the evening at Cleo with their fried lionfish alongside tzatziki sauce.

But I deviated from this just a tad, deciding that I simply had to sample Chef Garrette Bowe’s conch chowder and lobster salad sandwich at Café Madeleine where they specialize in traditional and signature French pastries along with their daily menu of sandwiches, salads, and quiche.

The conch chowder, chockful with chunks of tender conch and vegetables and seasoned to perfection was served with a wedge of dare I say, delicious toasted Johnny cake alongside a Caribbean spiny lobster salad sandwich in a classic lunch pairing. The perfect combination of flavors, neither dish overwhelmed the other; and the spicing was just right. This makes for a classic light lunch, but it’s only on the menu at Cafe Madeleine until they close on Tuesday.

Then it was on to dinner.

At Stix, traditional and authentic Chinese cuisine take center stage, but room was made for that homey Bahamian seasonal treat — crab n’ dough, Chef Carvison Pratt’s take which allows Chinese cuisine to meet Caribbean seafood in a creative crab dumpling served over a savory broth.

The beautifully flavored broth and dumplings dish stuffed with crab meat, was a perfect fix for my seasonal crab n’ dough, without all the work of having to deal with an actual crab. Three dumplings are served per order. I ate one, and it was on to Katsuya where master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi’s evolves Japanese sushi and robata classics with inspired dishes like crispy rice with spicy tuna, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, and miso-marinated black cod, but where they made room for six days for a conch tempura to celebrate Independence. The conch tempura at Katsuya is a unique take on a Bahamian classic featuring battered cracked conch tossed with sesame Napa cabbage slaw, miso-ginger dressing and cilantro micro greens.

Katsuya’s conch tempura was light, and tender, and seemed to melt away in the mouth. The lightly seasoned slaw was the perfect crunch with the tempura. And it was perfectly portioned as well as I continued on my dining journey.

3 Tides Fish House which presents unique culinary delights of fresh seafood on a creative menu that features ingredients inspired by flavors from the Middle East, California and New York for breakfast and dinner was next. Chef Terrence Copland’s ode to Bahamian Independence was a curried oxtail ravioli garnished with carrot and coconut puree.

As promised by the chef, it was flavorful and bright, consisting of herbs and spices with a perfect combination of salty-sweet with the carrot and coconut puree adding the balance needed to counter the seasoned oxtail meat. The portion size of two ravioli, in this appetizer portion was perfect too.

At 3 Tides Fish House where they also serve breakfast, a guava duff French toast was their fun offering, featuring two thick slices of country-style toast and a sweet and satisfying guava rum butter sauce to take the dish to another level of delicious decadence.

Chef Jose Diaz opted for a fried lionfish served alongside a tzatziki sauce drizzled with herb oil at the Mediterranean-inspired Cleo. The fried filet pieces, for ease of consumption, are served alongside the impressive carcass whole fried carcass for that wow effect. But the light fish pieces are given a zing of flavor from the sauce.

Cleo also offers a creamy guava cheesecake dessert with pops of tangy passion fruit flavor that offers a perfect end to the meal.

And while I threw the towel in at that point, there are so much more of these Independence specials to be had at Baha Mar.

Fi’lia by James Beard Award winning Chef Michael Schwartz, where they serve “honest” Italian food featuring fresh ingredients from the hearth and the simplicity of handmade artisanal breads and pasta is serving steamed hogfish, prepared Bahamian style, with heirloom sea island red pea atop a local sweet potato stew composed of tomatoes, zucchini, local crab and polenta.

At Shuang Ba, the crown jewel of Grand Hyatt, where chefs create a new Chinese haute cuisine melding traditional and contemporary where signature dishes include “cherry” foie gras; traditional peking duck; braised “black-gold” abalone; fragrant iberico pork with preserved tofu wrapped with crepes; Chaozhou style truffle and vegetable dumplings; and steamed imperial bird’s nest, crystal sugar in orange — room has been made for the guava duff bao which allows the local Bahamian guava fruit to shine with sweet and tropical notes, folded into a cloud-like Chinese bao bun.

And at Commonwealth where they present a menu of traditional and contemporary dishes from six unique and distinct regions around the globe, at a restaurant that offers hearty farm-to-table cuisine, the Independence special dish is a conch kathi roll, inspired by Indian street food. Conch is wrapped in paratha bread and served with pickled onions and a caramelized spicy tomato reduction.

And the Independence specials don’t end there. The restaurants, lounges and bars also got in on the act to celebrate Bahamian Independence in a big way with specialty cocktails.

T2 – Nassau Got Soul: Aged rum brings a smoky, oak-forward flavor with notes of brown sugar accompanied by apricot brandy, pineapple juice, a splash of agave syrup and fresh lime juice.

3 Tides – Rising Sun: This refreshing mint-driven sip is mixed with rum, crème de banane, blue Curaçao, pineapple juice and lime juice.

Blue Note – Bahamian Pride: Floral and fragrant with refreshing notes of fresh watermelon—vodka, elderflower liquor, agave nectar, lime juice and mint leaves come together for a thirst-quenching cocktail.

Shuang Ba – Andros Blue Hole: Dark and creamy with notes of chocolate. The rum-based concoction features the Bahamian dilly fruit accompanied by vodka, crème de cacao, fresh berries and vanilla ice cream.

If you’re to partake in any of the Independence specials, you need to get in by Tuesday, July 10, because after that these special items will be history.

Shavaughn Moss

Lifestyles Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Shavaughn Mossjoined The Nassau Guardianas a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor.Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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