I’m a big proponent of the adage that the chef will never steer you wrong. Three months ago, Baha Mar executive chef Brent Martin sang the praises of their “ocean-to-table” and the “fresh is best” concept introduced at haute Chinese restaurant Shuang Ba at Baha Mar. He promised that anyone who orders the wok-fried flounder or the wok-fried lobster could be assured that just minutes before their meal is placed before them that the lobster or flounder was alive and swimming in one of their four fish tanks mere feet from your table. And that 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 that it would be evidently distinguishable from the non-fresh fish/lobster that had been frozen and thawed.
The chef’s words were like a gauntlet laid down and a challenge. I had to check out for myself to see if what he said held true and whether their tank-to-table seafood really lives up to the chef’s rantings.
On a recent visit to Shuang Ba, I was eager to put Martin’s theory into practice, but found myself floundering, really wanting to order my all-time Shuang Ba favorite – the Peking duck, which just happens to be a Shuang Ba signature item; or the chili-boiled shrimp, which a server had recommended to me on a previous visit, but I had bypassed; or the wok-fried Caribbean lobster with ginger and scallions.
I simply could not choose. I ordered them all. I really wanted the duck and I salivated thinking about the luscious meat and crispy skin that I enrobe in wafer-thin pancakes which never disappoints and is always super satisfying.
Plus, there was the fact that from my previous visit, a server had recommended the chili-boiled shrimp that he said was lip-smackingly delicious; and of course, Martin’s words about how delicious the lobster would be kept ringing in my ear – I found myself in a real quandary.
So, I did the only thing I could think to do – I ordered them all – because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sampling a few items. I just had to eat them in the right order so as to not overpower any one dish.
The lobster was up first.
The presentation chunks of meat from the Caribbean lobster wok-fried with ginger and scallion, surrounded with brilliantly green broccoli florets with the fiery red head featured prominently is a definite conversation starter as the wait staff traverse the dining room to deliver the meal. The presentation is amazing.
One bite and I realized the truth behind everything Martin said. The meat was luscious, and, dare I say, beautiful, with a texture that was just as delicate as he said it would be.
I’ve had perfectly cooked lobster before, but having it fresh out of the tank, and cooked to perfection to give optimum flavor and texture made for a sweetness that’s almost indescribable. I could definitely taste the difference.
I next dove into the chili-boiled shrimp, the most famous cooking method of Szechwan cuisine. Wok-fried with ginger, garlic, scallion with soy bean sauce, chili, Chinese numbing peppercorn, star anise, bay leaves, nutmeg, tasoko, cinnamon, beef tallow, and chicken stock. Before serving, the dish is topped with chopped chili and hit with boiled oil to enhance the spicy taste.
This spiciness of this dish was just hot enough to make me go wow, but intriguing to the point that I kept digging in for more.
On this visit I decided a couple of dim sum were in order, and my server recommended the seafood dumpling with shrimp, scallop, crab meat and green cabbage; and the three treasures “pot sticker” of shrimp, scallop, crab, pork, shitake mushroom and Chinese cabbage. Truth be told, you can never go wrong with dim sum. They’re just the perfect starters, so you can mix and match to your heart’s content.
When you’re next at Shuang Ba, the sweet, sour pork ribs that are served room temperature, and which your server will tell you, is a must-have item; don’t worry about the “coldness” of the ribs, because they are sweet, sticky and delicious, and a menu item you too will want time and time again.
The lobster soup featuring crabmeat, tofu, enoki mushroom, bamboo shoots, wood ear, tomato, and shrimp broth is also a soul-satisfying item that will become your go-to soup for every visit.