It’s almost sacrilegious for a Bahamian to not think about consuming conch salad at its freshest – which means pulling the conch out of the water, cracking it to remove the mollusk from its shell, making the salad and enjoying. Conch salad is never better than when served fresh. It’s this concept of “fresh is best” that has been introduced at haute Chinese restaurant Shuang Ba at Baha Mar with its “ocean-to-table” concept that focuses on getting the freshest seafood on the plate and to diners.
When you order the wok-fried flounder or the wok-fried lobster at Shuang Ba you can be assured that just minutes before your meal is placed before you, the lobster or flounder was alive and swimming in one of their four fish tanks mere feet away from your table. Having the ability to take the flounder or lobster from the tank, cook it and then serve it to diners makes for a different flavor profile, and the best it could possibly be – texture and flavor wise – and can be distinguished from the non-fresh fish.
“Within five minutes it’s going from being in a live state to your table. You are getting the freshest possible seafood here in The Bahamas. The animal is not going into complete shock, or had time to decompose per se, so it’s giving the freshest possible flavor,” said Baha Mar Executive Chef Brent Martin.
Being able to provide fresh seafood, he said, is true to the culture of the Shuang Ba restaurant and Chinese cuisine. Some of the chefs at the restaurant grew up in the southeast coast of China where there is a culinary emphasis on the natural flavors of fresh fish, and as such do not cook with a lot of seasoning, allowing the natural flavors to speak for itself in a dish.
“In China they’ve been doing this for many years, having the freshest product available, and obviously the seafood is a big component of their cuisine, and having that experience of being in a state of not going through any type of shock to being frozen, we’re giving optimum flavor, texture and the overall experience of a product that you can’t have anywhere else.”
In Chinese culture, being fresh and alive is a huge component of quality for premium cuisine.
And with fresh flavors, a part of the lifestyle of Baha Mar and Shuang Ba’s guests, Martin said the “jewel” of restaurants in the Grand Hyatt repertoire has a responsibility to give their guests something unique.
“There is an expectation that the fish will be fresh and delicate. It is part of the culture and the expectation of a world-class restaurant.”
Baha Mar’s culinary team worked with Tropic Seafood, The Bahamas’ largest lobster tail and seafood processor, to develop the process to accommodate a safe and healthy environment for live fish prior to consumption. The result was four fish tanks designed by Tropic Seafood containing 70 to 100 gallons of water with marine salt, a filtration system to remove particles (like seaweed), oxygen, micro-organisms created by the fish to mimic their natural environment to create a natural ecosystem in the tank so the fish can develop and be healthy. Temperatures in the tank can also be adjusted to allow for the natural environment of the fish that originate from colder waters.
Shuang Ba has one lobster tank and three fish tanks that can hold approximately 12 fish in each tank.
The fish arrive at Shuang Ba bagged in oxygenated water from Tropic Seafood; the restaurant team is put on alert so they are ready to receive the shipment. Martin said the utmost care is taken to ensure the fish are relaxed during the process so the meat is softer and delicate.
The culinary team works with Baha Mar’s marine department personnel who are mindful of the welfare of the lobster and the fish.
Shuang Ba’s ocean-to-table concept was launched around the opening of lobster season in August, with the flounder launched just before that.
The tanks are located right behind Shuang Ba restaurant and easily accessible for guests to see. It is something Martin said they love to show off because it speaks to the sustainable seafood program being offered and helps the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar reduce its carbon footprint as the fish comes to the hotel and restaurant by minutes away by truck rather than hours by plane.
The process also allows for the maintenance of a supply to meet guest demand, and helps them do away with the practice of substituting Maine lobsters for Bahamian lobsters when the season closes. According to the chef, the sweetness of local lobsters makes a difference to the dish.
Martin said the “ocean-to-table” concept has been well-received.
“The staff is really proud to be selling the dishes, and there have been multiple nights when we’ve sold out of the live fish and live lobster.”
While Shuang Ba’s “ocean-to-Table” concept is still in its infancy stage, Martin said his goal is to expand the offerings, and he is looking at exploring other options such as the grouper.
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