Aweekend stay at the SLS Baha Mar (taking advantage of their Stay Local Sweetie promotion) meant pure decadent indulgence dining across the property’s restaurants – Katsuya, Cleo Mediterraneo and Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz, and for the first time indulging in nibbles at the Bungalow Pool Bar & Grill. It was an exceptional experience across the board.
I’ve shared my excursions beyond the northern walls of the actual edifice in a recent article, but this time it’s about the fantastic dining experiences.
My weekend began at the Bungalow Pool Bar & Grill. Having arrived earlier than check-in, I was invited to check out the dining experiences to be had poolside – and I must admit that the Bungalow Pool Bar & Grill has an enticing menu. Not having had a burger in a while, I decided to go that route, opting for the SLS Burger – white truffle aioli, caramelized mushrooms, sweet potato fries and avocado fries with harissa aioli and sea salt. I was hooked at white truffle. (You can put truffle – black or white – on my shoe and I would eat it.) I just love that slightly garlicky and peppery flavor, and it went beautifully with the perfectly medium beef.
What I didn’t bargain for was the size of the actual burger which I ordered with sweet potato fries, and a side of avocado fries – simply because the avocado fries they will tell you are a must try, and… well – I did. The avocado slices are coated in a panko crust, quickly deep fried, which makes for a crisp protective coating for the creamy avocado which is served with a harissa aioli, and were a perfect accompaniment to my burger, and also a new favorite.
Later, and when I say later, I mean much later, because the poolside nibbles were so hearty, I didn’t even know if I would want dinner that night, but then again, this was a weekend that was all about splurging.
Fi’lia by Michael Schwartz
At Fi’lia I’ve had the tried-and-proven. This time around, I wanted new. It was recommended that I have the charred eggplant spread with bottarga and toasted bread. The classic mezze spread was smoky and creamy, but the artichoke lover in me couldn’t help but order the grilled artichoke with smoked paprika aioli. Not only do artichokes taste great, but there’s something about methodically pulling off the petals one at a time, dipping the white fleshy end in the dip – in this case a smoked paprika aioli – and then scraping through my teeth to remove the soft, pulpy, delicious portion of the petal, before discarding the rest of the petal. This may seem like a lot of work, for so little, but until you’ve had a grilled artichoke, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Fi’lia is the perfect place to be introduced.
And if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize, it’s that you cannot eat at Fi’lia without ordering their tableside Caesar. This signature item is a must if you’re dining alone or with others, so I did.
Dining with my husband, we decided to share an entrée, and went with the grilled 42-ounce bisteca fiorentino (Florentine-grilled steak) with grilled lemon rosemary.
We knew this would be a big piece, but I don’t think we had completely wrapped our heads around how show-stopping it would be. It drew stares as our server walked it to our table. And for its thick cut it didn’t disappoint. It was meltingly tender and incredibly flavorful. Heaven on earth, and a tough act to follow. To close out the meal I opted for the olive oil cake which turned out to be moist with a delicate crumb.
This was a meal I dreamt about for a long time afterwards.
Katsuya was next up, and I’ve dined here so many times since they’ve opened a little over a year ago, that dining at Katsuya ranks extremely high for me because I’ve never been disappointed and I do have my menu favorites. And it’s still surprising that there are many menu offerings that I hadn’t tried. I made a vow going in that I would try at least one new thing, and did – the salmon grilled over a cedar board to add earthiness and topped with a tomato, caper and sansho peppercorn sauce. This dish gave me life. The flavors all came together on my perfectly medium salmon for sheer perfection and made me wonder why I’d never ordered it before.
I decided to have a few sashimi pieces as well, because I’d been lacking in ordering sushi when dining at Katsuya, and went with the smoked eel, a favorite of mine, tomago (which literally means ‘grilled egg’) and the king crab legs.
The wagyu with foie gras – delicious medallions of foie gras served on top of Wagyu beef, smothered in chef’s plum wine reduction – is always a must-have dish; and the Kakuna pork belly is not to be missed.
I finished the meal with a piece of their Sakura cake that’s offered as a special from time to time. Pound cake layered with matcha cream, banana, chocolate and served with whipped cream and fresh fruit, it’s a special slice of dessert heaven. Hopefully when you dine there, you’re in luck and able to have a slice.
The problem with Katsuya for me is that once I eat there, I want to return almost immediately.
Prior to checking out after my weekend stay and having avocado toast with crushed avocado, poached eggs, crispy prosciutto and queso fresco, along with steak and eggs (a seven-ounce New York strip, sunny side up egg, roasted potatoes, arugula salad and chimichurri sauce) for the hubby for breakfast at Cleo, I just knew I couldn’t not have dinner at Cleo Mediterraneo, so we returned for dinner at the end of the workday. And again, it was all about trying new menu items that I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of eating at Cleo.
I ordered the babaganoush (smoked eggplant, tahini and sumac) and this classic smoky, garlicky spread has become one of my favorites; can’t wait to return for a second helping.
The lamb shawarma, which is offered as a duo of sandwiches served in pita bread, features slow-roasted lamb, grilled laffa, lebaneh and caramelized onion. They were a delight to the senses, and to be honest quite filling. But then again, the falafel lover that I am, I just had to order the green falafel with tahini sauce, tabbouleh and beet-pickled fennel. It was packed with herbs and flavor and the beet-pickled fennel added just the right amount of acid to make the dish perfect.
For my entrée, the Chilean seabass with citrus, ginger, basil, cilantro and chili ponzu was a delicious light offering. I ordered it with sumac fries (just to give them a try) – the sumac gave a hint of tangy flavor, making the fries a little more special.
Hubby went with the rack of lamb with chimicurri and chermoula (lemony Moroccan parsley marinade) roasted potatoes. We concluded the meal with sticky toffee pudding.
Sticky toffee pudding with ice cream.
Perfect! And I’m not just talking about that final meal, but all of my meals at the SLS restaurants were something special. If by chance you haven’t dined at any of their restaurants, what are you waiting for?
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.