With a deejay pumping out upbeat, energetic tunes, Chef Jacques Carlino “unfurled” Blue Sail Restaurant Beach Bar in the “new normal” of physically distanced diners, and he and his staff decked out in personal protective gear.
It was his first week of operation since non-essential businesses were shuttered on March 20 to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country after The Bahamas confirmed its first coronavirus case on March 15. He opted not to do takeout in an effort to ensure his safety as well as the safety of his staff.
“My mommy who is 89 years old is here, and I didn’t want to take the risk of having people around me and taking it home, and I didn’t want any member of my staff to get sick.” So, he closed shop until businesses were given the go-ahead for outdoor dining last week Friday.
In the interim, once they were allowed to get back and do maintenance in preparation for reopening, he took the opportunity to redo the bathrooms, retile his kitchen and do a general revamp of the beachfront restaurant which has been open for five years at Sandyport.
“I really tried to do it right,” says Carlino. “If I go out for dinner, I want to feel as safe as possible. And I’m very privileged I have the space. We’ve moved away tables, created a beach area and we’ve placed tables in the sand, to create even more space.”
The indoor dining space remains closed to the public.
As soon as you approach the host desk, an employee sprays patrons’ hands with hand sanitizer before they enter the dining area, and they are required to have their mask on until they’re at their table or if moving around the restaurant. While seated, they are free to remove their mask.
Carlino also reopened with a revamped menu showcasing more items that Bahamians love in light of the country’s borders still being closed. And that was despite the fact that he had put out a new menu just six months ago.
“The menu I had six months ago, I will bring it back eventually, because sadly we did not get to use it as much as I would have liked.”
It was a more European menu with sophisticated offerings. The current menu features things like chicken wings (bleu cheese, BBQ, jerked or naked); and fried snapper just the way Bahamians like it – whole with peas and rice; and he’s added a grouper fillet, but couldn’t help himself – he serves it with bourguignon pearl barley risotto.
“I normally don’t do chicken wings and things like this, but I’ve got to be smart and try to please more of the people of Nassau.”
In the new normal he says he’s also adjusted prices down as people have less money in their pockets, but still want to eat out.
Blue Sail is known for their big burgers – among some of the favorites, a 12-ounce truffled burger with bleu cheese on a brioche bun; an eight-ounce Wagyu beef burger with sautéed mushroom, onion and cheese; a 12-ounce Canadian bacon burger stuffed with mushroom and cheese; a 10-ounce turkey burger with sweet pepper salsa and feta (no bun); as well as a house-made lentil burger to satisfy vegan patrons, which he retained from previous menus and that has been a hit with his customers.
“We still have the big burger, but I’m also doing a small burger so I can charge less.”
And then there are his amazing wood oven-fired pizzas – you get 24 different pies to choose from, as well as appetizers to satisfy every palate, from conch fritters to fried calamari and a Mediterranean plate featuring hummus, tzatziki and an olive tapenade; soups and salads; a variety of ceviche, tartars and mini tacos; and fish and shellfish – curried shrimp with fresh ginger, cilantro, okra and coconut milk; grilled mahi mahi with arugula, lentil salad and sweet peppers; 12-ounce roasted Bahamian crawfish with parsley and garlic rub; and cauliflower puree and pomme paille herb-crusted salmon, lemon mashed potato and tomato coulis.
And of course, the sweet dessert endings featuring the classic vanilla crème brulee and his pizza Cassandra (Nutella pizza) as well as ice creams and the whimsical banana split.
It was obvious people were ready to get back to their favorite spot on the beach, as he reopened to a full house, as far as he could accommodate in the “new normal”.
With his reopening, Carlino says it’s a great opportunity for people to rediscover what they do at Blue Sail.