Owing to the “cooler” temperatures at this time of year most chefs by now have opted to switch out their menus, or at least some of the items, to more homey, comforting options as they’re usually hearty and warming – think slow-cooked, roasted, baked and gooey – for maximum coziness.
While Cocoplum bistro & bar is still a relative “baby” on the restaurant scene, Chef Cecile Cathelin knows the importance of switching it up which is why her winter menu includes new menu mains like pappardelle with beef ragu, bouillabaisse (French fish stew, tomatoes, saffron rice), mushroom risotto, tarragon chicken breast and a veal chop with mashed potatoes – classic hearty, comfort fare.
On my most recent visit to this absolutely wonderful bistro in the Harbour Green Shopping Plaza, West Bay Street, the menu switch-up had me in a quandary with the options to choose from, until I kind of settled on the bouillabaisse, a traditional Provencal fish stew, that was originally a stew made by fishermen using what they were unable to sell. Once considered a cheap meal for hungry French fishermen, it is now considered a feast fit for a king. I had to have it.
Of course, chef Cecile tweaked the classic dish seeing as we are in The Bahamas, so lion-fish, lobster, mahi mahi, shrimp, octopus, conch, mussel, clam, and head-on shrimp are the order of the day in this uniquely flavored dish with saffron and fennels, and served with a rouille (mayo with garlic, paprika and sumac) which you slather on the toasted baguette and dip into the broth to add that essential garlicky richness for a true burst of flavor, and saffron rice. Simply delightful. This dish was satisfying beyond measure.
In true fashion, I couldn’t help it, I had to have the risotto as well, because I love risotto. It just has to be done well. I had to see if Cathelin’s mushroom risotto would live up to my exacting standards. (Because Lord knows I’ve had some horrible risottos over the years, because some people just can’t get it right). So I got that too.
It was rich, creamy, and luxurious with a deep, earthy, mushroom-forward flavor coming through. The consistency was also spot on – not too runny and not too thick. It had the perfect fluidity that I look forward to in a risotto that’s cooked right. The addition of the Parmesan cheese made for a creamy, deeply satisfying dish that I crave. In this mushroom-forward, earthy dish Cathelin utilized mushroom flavor every step of the way from the stock up to build on that mushroom flavor and essence. The result was sin on a plate. If anyone wants lessons on what the perfect risotto should look like, feel like and taste like – seek out Cathelin for a lesson or two (to see if she offers) because her risotto is the standard by which I will now measure all others on island.
That evening, her diner special menu showcased a seared scallop with beurre blanc that my server assured me was well worth it. This dish alone shows that when Cathelin conceptualizes a dish she does so from start to finish, as two perfectly cooked scallops were set before me in shells, atop a bed of sand in a sea-shaped serving dish. They looked great, were presented well, and tasted absolutely fantastic.
Soft, buttery, delicious and versatile crepes were the special sweet ending and I had a choice between sugar, Nutella or a coco suzette crepe. I went with the traditional sugar crepe to satisfy my sweet tooth, with a cappuccino served with a madeleine on the side. (Might I add I also sneaked in an order of zeppole as well, as I can never resist these delicious fritters.) It was the perfect ending to a stellar dining experience.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.