The simplest way I can say this is to be prepared for an assault on the senses akin to a sensory overload when dining at Carna at the SLS at Baha Mar – in the most delicious, decadent way, of course. It’s food that’s visually stunning and almost too beautiful to eat.
There are steakhouses and then there is Carna, where some of the world’s best cuts of beef are to be had from the Japanese Wagyu A5 to the dry-aged which make for the absolute epitome of the next level steakhouse experience.
Actually, Carna is more than dining – it’s an experience, so ensure that you gird yourself well for the journey that Executive Chef Thomas Griese and his staff will take you on at this Dario Cecchini outpost, his first outside of Italy.
I’m still not certain I prepared myself at all, even though I expected this contemporary steakhouse experience to be as big and bold as legendary butcher Dario Cecchini himself, whom I had the privilege and honor to have met at the official opening. But it wasn’t until six months later that I actually pulled up a seat at a table to experience what Carna is in its true essence.
Per Chef Griese’s suggestion, I started the meal with the Black Label prosciutto and Black River caviar cannoli, described on the menu as an unforgettable treat for the senses. This one-bite dish makes you sit up and take notice that if the remainder of the meal is anything like it, you are in for an amazing treat. And I was.
The prosciutto was smooth on the palate – fragrant, with a sweet taste – and played off the caviar which had a clean and slightly salty taste. But the combinations were an amazing burst of flavor that will leave you craving a second bite. These are sold by the piece, and you can totally be satisfied with one piece if you allow your sense of taste to savor all the flavors you get from this addictive treat that sets you up perfectly for the rest of your meal.
The one thing I knew I was having, I was having a steak, because there was no way I was going to Carna and not ordering beef. But they do have seafood, chicken and lamb offerings – although minimally, because the focus is of course on the beef – all cuts which are dry-rubbed with Cecchini’s signature Profumo del Chianti specialty salt.
A ribeye girl to the core, I went with the 20-ounce cowboy, costata alla fiorentina, 1855 Super Prime Black Angus – which simply means it’s premium beef with flavor that is tender and juicy with buttery beef flavors. The steak eats rich and complex with a lush consistency and a great meat flavor. I paired it with crispy Brussels sprouts that were slightly sweet to the taste, luscious whipped potatoes, heady truffle mac ‘n cheese and grilled asparagus.
I couldn’t resist the Japanese Wagyu, a steak that is known for its exceptional taste and literally melts on the tongue. Tender and full-bodied, this steak is indeed a treat. It’s a rich, full-bodied flavor that spreads throughout the entire mouth. Wagyu is often called the most expensive beef in the world. It’s a little pricey, but enjoying the delicacy is a must-have. They offer Miyazaki prefecture full-bodied A5, the highest-grade wagyu one can get, so this is a real treat.
At Carna, they butcher in-house daily meats sourced directly from farmers around the globe, focusing on unrivaled quality of all-natural, humanely-raised beef. Dry-aged cuts anywhere from 21 days to 50 days feature prominently on the menu. Dry-aging allows for a more concentrated flavor for an even more tender-mouth feel due to the natural breakdown of the beef’s enzymes that occur during the process.
They also offer wonderful roasted bone marrow served with toast point. There is just something about the rich, unctuous, irresistibleness of bone marrow that calls out to me to spread the rich, creamy marrow on crusty bread. It’s sheer decadence, and nature’s equivalent of butter on bread.
Carna also offers a seafood and shellfish tower which they say is “fit for a king”. It was loaded with all of my favorites from the sea – Alaskan king crab leg, spiny tail lobster, oysters from both the east and west coast, prawns and Maine lobster salad. And it’s worth every penny.
Marinated blue crab cake with remoulade, capers and celery made with blue crabs that are prized for their sweet, delicate flavor and tender meat, resulted in a crab cake that was sweet and delicate.
Griese also suggested the roasted beet salad with goat cheese, watercress, candied hazelnuts and sherry vinegar, considered a signature menu item. The sweet roasted beets coupled with creamy goat cheese and the spicy bite from the watercress, balanced by the sweet crunch from the candied hazelnuts, is rounded out by rich, nutty, but slightly sweet flavor of the sherry vinegar to pull the entire dish together, which makes you realize why this salad is highly regarded on the menu.
I closed out my meal with Carna’s signature affogato – a marriage of espresso and vanilla ice cream that they serve with a Valrhona sphere, toasted vanilla marshmallow and Lavazza espresso. Simply put, this is creamy vanilla drowned in a shot of hot espresso, creating a creamy, frothy, perfect ending that had me going in for scoop after delicious scoop. The word “affogato” literally translates to “drowned” in Italian. The affogato starts with a single, tightly packed scoop of ice cream in a chilled glass, with the espresso poured directly over the gelato and eaten right away. On the dessert menu there are suggested libation pairings; they suggested the Lazzaroni Amaretto to go with my affogato.
There’s also the New York-style cheesecake with red raspberries, white chocolate fudge and Oreo crumbs, which was suggested paired with Plantation XO, Guatemala.
The Carna experience was more than just dining. It’s unforgettable. It was a journey that entailed a delicious assault on all of the senses. The experience was definitely bold and memorable at the contemporary steakhouse concept that the legendary Cecchini, an eighth-generation butcher from the village of Panzano in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy, helmed with sbe at Baha Mar with Griese holding down the fort.
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