Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harbourfront Lounge East Bay Street

I do love a Wednesday night out. Halfway through the week, with the previous weekend’s shenanigans behind me, I am ready and eager to venture out again. The Harbourfront lounge is also a fan of Wednesdays. On said night, they host a weekly Supper Club; offering a special menu of whatever takes the chef’s fancy. The Juggernaut and I needed little encouragement to go and check it out. Greeted with a rapturous reception, we immediately felt at ease. We took a table I the atmospheric courtyard, with its clay coloured walls sheltered by Sail awning and strings of lightbulbs. A gas fire in the centre lent a welcoming glow. I liked this place so far
Pleasant acoustic guitar playing on the speakers  gave rise to a relaxed bohemian atmosphere. The combination of gourmet menu in a laid back setting was a winning one. I could happily while away many an hour here.
My eyes lit up on seeing tonight’s theme; Lobster fiesta. What could be better? Food of the gods from local waters with an international spin. First things first. Wine. Our waiter suggested the Noble Torrontes Sauvignon/Chardonnay blend from Argentina,  a new additio n to the cellar, smooth with a fruity after taste. We took his word for it and ordered it.
The ‘boutique’ list was largely made up of wines from Argentina South Africa and the USA and included Fume Blanc and Pinot Noir, two of my faves.
 After perusing the tempting menu for some time, we placed our order. A bit greedy, admittedly. Hard to resist the spiny sweet fleshed suckers. A visit to the was a bit of a let down coming from the cosy earthy of the courtyard. Clearly this area had avoided the renovation that the main part of the restaurant had seen. The ladies was clad in pink granny chic tiles with matching coloured toilets. It wasn’t cool or ironic. Just wrong. This area was in dire need of some attention. When I returned the food had arrived. Don’t you love it when that happens?
Lobster and green mango summer rolls with chilli lime dipping sauce ($12) were beautifully constructed. The delicate white parcels on a mat of black nori were almost too pretty to ruin by eating. The rolls were clean and sharp. The sweet saltiness of the dipping sauce offset this beautifully. The flavours of Thailand in a mouthful.  Bravo.
The creamy lobster chowder ($12) was a bowl of soul food. Love and pride had gone into making this dish. Comforting and hearty, eating this was like wrapping yourself in a cashmere blanket in front of a log fire. The highly recommended Lobster Levelle was a lobster tail in garlic sherry cream sauce with Basmati rice and asparagus ($39). The indulgent sauce coated morsels of lobster nestled in the shell. My tastebuds did a little dance in my mouth. Heaven on a plate. The only disappointment was the Lobster and vegetable tempura with ponzu dipping sauce ($21). Great lovers of Japanese cuisine The Juggernaut and I are great lovers of Japanese cuisinebut sadly this lacked the finesse that great tempura demands. Heavy batter dragged the lobster and its vegetabes down.
A short break for digestion and thoughts turned to dessert. There were some stodgy puddings on offer, namely guava duff, key lime pie and chocolate brownie. They would push us over the edge. Instead we ordered some mango gelato. A huge mound arrived, more than we could cope with. It was too sweet for me; more intense mango flavours would have been welcome.
I looked around the cosy courtyard, genuinely baffled as to why more tables weren’t occupied. The food, service and atmosphere were on the whole pretty favourable. The a la carte menu offers international tapas, gourmet pizzas, pastas, seafood. A great mish mash of cuisines. I’m a fan of the Harbourfront Lounge. If you haven’t gone lately or at all, you should give it a whirl.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Blu, Elizabeth on Bay

Blu is the new kid on the block, the hot new dining and drinking spot to see and be seen in downtown Nassau. The Juggernaut and I decided to see what all the fuss was about and go for a quiet weeknight dinner. Greeted by a hostess at the door, we were led through the bar area of Blu, which was largely empty, except for a well-groomed party having a pre dinner aperitif and a smattering of diners. It felt very much like a nightclub with its dark wooden interior, crystal pendants and gleaming granite bar. High-end finishes were everywhere. The Juggernaut described it as ‘global sleek modernism’. Walking out onto the deck, I had a sudden flashback of my visit to Sydney in ‘02. A million dollar view of twinkling cruise ships and yachts bobbing in the evening breeze gave real wow factor. Expensive looking parasols and trendy rattan furniture furnished the deck. The owner, Bryn, came over and gave us a tour of the premises, proudly showing us round the upstairs lounge areas and private dining room. His mission was to create a restaurant that was miles away from the cheesy haunts that dominated the island’s waterfront. He wanted to make people feel they were no longer in Nassau and without doubt he has definitely succeeded. Although there are nods to Bahamian style, in the woven ceiling fans and palms, you could be anywhere. The setting really is breathtaking. Hats off to him for choice of location. I can foresee many a marriage proposal taking place on its deck. We sat down and studied the menu. A cross section of Mediterranean dishes with a few Moroccan ones thrown in. There was paella, seafood risotto, beef tenderloin with greek potato, duck confit. The Juggernaut and I were ravenous and tucked into the bread with relish. A basket of foccacia with flavoured dipping oils of paprika, arugula, chilli and incredible balsamic vinegar, it was a promising start. We ordered a bottle of French Pinot noir, easy drinking table plonk. Ahhhhhh. We shared the Bunuelos de Bacalao ($14); salt cod and potato cakes, a dish originating in Catalunya, Spain, where my father is from. I was understandably dubious of ordering these. It came on a chic rectangular plate, drenched in a pepperonata sauce. The cod cakes were crispy and succulent, nicely made. I felt the sauce let the dish down; it was overpowering and almost suffocated the fish. I think some allioli would have been a better choice of sauce here. Clearing our plates, the waiter asked if we needed any extra silver ware, which we clearly did. Meanwhile, our main courses arrived. My wild mushroom ravioli with cognac cream sauce ($32) was placed before me. The divine scent wafted teasingly up to my nose. J’s slow cooked lamb tagine with couscous sat patiently awaiting cutlery. We were left salivating for a few moments before we could attack our food. Expertly cooked, homemade pasta, with a woody, pungent flavour. The taste of autumn. J had the Lamb shank tagine ($38). A hearty hunk of lamb coated in a deep, rich sauce, full of the joys of Morrocco. Soft meat fell off the bone. A man’s dish. We had a bit of a pause before attempting dessert. The options included a selection of cheeses with mango compote and foccacia chips ($15), a warm chocolate fondant cake with chocolate chilli gelato ($12). We went for the trio of desserts; a tasting plate of tiramisu, chocolate and amaretto cheesecake, both presented in shot glasses and a baklava. It looked pretty enough. There were dots of raspberry coulis artfully placed in the middle of the plate with a mint leaf, such a classic dessert garnish. The tiramisu was a bit sickly for me, bland. The cheesecake had no texture. What is the point of a cheesecake with no crunch? Bah! The baklava was a bit sad; dry and crumbly. It was an anticlimax after the success of the previous course.A sting in the tail was when the bill arrived, charging $6 for a single espresso. Really? Ouch. All in all, there were some flashes of brilliance in this snazzy establishment. The service was very attentive and aimed to please. There are many dishes I’d like to sample here. I bet they make a mean cocktail too. I hope it does well. I’ll be back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Taj Mahal, Parliament Street, Nassau

The Taj Mahal
When we lived in England, going for a curry was usually a group activity, a natural progression after a night in the pub. The Juggernaut and I were avid members of the Tooting Curry Club, which was basically an excuse to meet up with our mates every now and then and make our way round  the curry houses of London. Happy days. Our weekends would often end with a takeaway, if we couldn’t be arsed to cook on a Sunday night. As we hadn’t been for an Indian since arriving in Nassau, we weren't quite sure what to expect.Many of the people I’d asked about the Taj Mahal either hadn’t been there at all or hadn’t been in years. Those who had quite liked the food and ambience. The Taj Mahal is housed in a vibrantly coloured building, whose façade I had always admired. I opened the door to a mild whiff of cumin and body odour. The familar smell of curry houses on Brick lane in East London. The dark low-ceilinged foyer looked just like an old man’s boozer in the provinces of Britain. A throwback from the colonial days of old. There were two doors; one led to the restaurant, one to the pub. Slightly baffled, I opened the former.
Inside it felt like an empty pub at Christmas time. Tables were laid with red and green, gold poinsettias and other garish decorations festooned the dining area. Happy Indian music was playing to add to the joy. The floor was fitted with an immaculate checked carpet; a brave choice for restaurant flooring I felt. There was a lone male diner. Other diners came and went throughout our dinner but didn’t linger long. I needn’t have booked a table for nine. J and I ordered a beer; the only drink to have with curry, and perused the weighty menu while we awaited the rest of our party.The appetisers included such staples as Meat Samosas ($10.95) and Onion Bhajis ($8.95). Curries included the usual Chicken Tikka Masala ($17.95); possibly the most popular dish in Britain, Butter chicken ($21.95), Lamb Jalfrezi ($27.95) , Dopiaza and Rogan Josh. Most dishes could be ordered mild, medium or hot, with the exception of the Vindaloo which just came one way; hot as hell. Each dish was served with steamed rice. I was surprised to see Beef dishes on the menu as cows are sacred in India. Eating beef is a huge taboo and killing a cow can even lead to imprisonment. I began to doubt the authenticity of this place. We decided to order a load of curries and share them, along with a variety of Naan breads; garlic, butter, cheese and my top choice, Peshwari. Ah, it really had been too long since I last had an Indian.
We ordered a load of Poppadums with Mango Chutney for the table. The Poppadums had a slightly fishy taste, maybe from the oil they were fried in. Despite this they were perfectly ok. The real problem was the so-called Mango Chutney. Watery, radioactive-red jam. It had never even so much as shaken hands with a mango. This didn’t bode well at all. Not long afterwards big warm plates were brought out in anticipation of our main courses. Stainless steel boats bearing steaming curries garnished with coriander were brought out on a tray. The moment of truth had arrived. My Chicken Jalfrezi tasted pretty good, although it’s heat was quite harsh, it got you at the back of the throat. The Chicken Tikka Masala was so brightly coloured you could have seen it from outer space. The Lamb Gosht Bhuna was a favourite, with it’s pungent, unctuous sauce which clung to the chunks of meat. The aromatic chickpea curry, whose name escapes me, was a winner. However, the Vindaloo was brutal; it was so fiery you could barely tell what meat it contained. I just remember downing beer fast after trying it. We desperately needed more beer on the table. The waitresses had a tendency to huddle around the corner whenever we wanted to order more drinks. The portions were generous; you easily could share a curry with some sides. Needless to say, everyone had a little pot for lunch the following day.
When offered dessert, nobody could recall ever having tried anything Indian before. We were always to full or too drunk at that stage to order it. Nevertheless, out of curiosity I had a peek at the menu. Rice pudding, Gajar ka Halwa; young sweet carrots grated and cooked in milk, sugar syrup and almonds and various exotic fruits with syrup. No thanks. All a bit sickly for my tastes. All in all, it was a lot of fun. A bit pricey for what we had. Of course I’ve had better. I’d come back again to go to the pub. Whenever I feel homesick, I could imagine I’m back in England and order a pint with my portion of chickpeas. You won’t catch me touching the mango chutney though.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Luciano's East Bay St

 A winning raffle ticket, whose prize was a voucher towards dinner at Luciano’s, provided this month’s choice of restaurant.  Luciano’s is one of the heavyweights of the Nassau restaurant scene and has a reputation for consistently good Italian. Although familiar to  me, approaching the entrance to the elegant villa still felt dramatic, even though I had been to Luciano’s several times. Flanked by doormen and fronted by illuminated palm trees, stepping inside the marble clad hallway with its sweeping staircase brings to mind gangster flicks from a bygone era.
The Juggernaut and I were led through to a well positioned table at the water’s edge, with a million dollar view over the glittering marina. Many a holiday shot taking in the gleaming towers of Atlantis must have been taken from this vantage point. There was a mixture of tourists in the know and locals occupying the patio area.
A smooth waiter glided up immediately to offer us water, ‘officially’ introduce himself, adjust the table settings and generally inspire confidence that we would be looked after. He left us with the promise of warm bread upon his return. Good man. We exhaled deeply and took in our splendid surroundings.
Back in two shakes of a lambs’ tail, he proceeded to tell us about the specials. We sat mesmerised as a stream of superlatives poured forth from his mouth. It was an impressive performance. He went into fine detail about what was on offer tonight. Every now and then I would catch a key word such as ‘wedge of lemon’ or red snapper’.  He went off as we absorbed all this information and examined the menu. There was a section entitled ‘Cucina Lite; for those of our guests who are watching their intake of calories, fat, cholesterol or sodium’ These virtuous dishes included Chicken Cacciatore, Linguine pomodoro  or Veal limone. I could see several other diners who might want to consider ordering from this section.
The appetisers included grilled calamari ($10) Eggplant melanzane ($9) and Cacciuco fisherman’s soup ($15). There was a vast range of entrees, from linguine vongole $27, gnocchi with wild mushrooms $26 to New York Strip steak $37, which was corn fed and sourced from the Mid West.
We placed our order and slurped away contentedly at our chilled glasses of Gavi. The warm bread and caponata helped to stave off our growing hunger pangs. The shared starter of cracked conch cakes arrived already divided between two plates. Great attention to detail. I was reminded how sharp the service is here. The wedge of lemon was wrapped in linen, to avoid any pesky little pips landing on the food, a nice touch too.  The conch cakes were packed with tender chunks of conch, well seasoned and with a polite kick from the pepper.The Juggernaut exclaimed, “I like”.
A nearby table was getting the Happy Birthday treatment; a troupe of waiter percussionists and singers serenading the chosen one. They really do go that extra mile to make it a night to remember. A bit over the top for my British sensibilities; I’d find it all too embarrassing.
Our main courses came out looking heavenly. My ginormous shrimps reclined on  a pillow of some-sort-of-orzo-like-pasta-whose-name-I’ve-forgotten, with another linen clad lemon and some spinach. The shrimps were steaming, succulent, fabulous. The pasta was lightly dressed with parsley, olive oil and lemon but a heavy dose of black pepper  almost entirely obliterated the other flavours. I felt it could have been better.
J had the special red snapper broth on angel hair pasta. This was a masterclass in the cooking of fish. The snapper was so fresh it melted in the mouth. The broth, fragrant with tomato, garlic, fennel was delicate and absolutely divine. I was really gutted I hadn’t chosen it. Whilst waxing lyrical about this gastronomic stroke of genius our wine was topped up and checks were made on our progress. Our waiter dropped in a few Italian words to show us his skills. Service was faultless.
Clearing our plates, our waiter asked if we were ready for the best part of the meal. I assumed he meant dessert and not the bill. He went on to entice us with offers of cannoli, homemade ice cream and the eponymous tiramisu but we were spent. We basked in a post dinner glow under a string of fairy lights. The water shimmered in the moonlight. Yachts bobbed gently in the breeze. I felt contented and fulfilled. It all was terribly romantic. Then there was a crack of thunder, the heavens opened and we along with hordes of other diners ran for cover inside. Rather than dampening our spirits the downpour added a certain dramatic finale to our dinner, something Luciano’s does well.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Humidor Churrascaria at Graycliff

Humidor Churrascaria 

The Churrascaria is a Brazilian ‘Rodizio’ steak house  adjacent to the historic Graycliff hotel. It had been on mine and the Juggernaut’s list of places to investigate for a while, but for one reason or another, we had never quite made it there. It is not widely regarded as one of the dining hotspots in Nassau and therefore it was a bit of a mystery. Aware that there would be an unlimited amount of meat on offer,  a friend had advised me that the key to the barbeque meat fest was to pace yourself, as the best cuts come to those who wait. J and I were both keen to embark upon this feat of carnivorous endurance. I reminisced fondly of Sunday lunches when Dad would typically barbeque half a cow for our family of five. We asked a couple of virgin Churrascaria diners to join us for the  occasion.
We entered through an intriguing gateway cut into the rocks, which led up some steps to the restaurant.  Strangely devoid of diners when we walked in just after eight, the empty room was a slightly worrying sign. The room was full of dark wooden furniture, tribal masks and granny fabrics. A cheery waiter welcomed us with the offer of some caipirinhas. Why not indeed. Several sips of this unbelievably strong concoction and I was floating down the Amazon.

After we had polished off our drinks, we were led, half cut, to the dining area. There were a couple of other tables dining in the slightly depressing room, which had a funereal air  about it with it’s cold lighting and fake wall hung flowers. Salsa music lent a buoyant veneer to the austere surroundings. There was no menu. The waiter explained that we would be brought a series of grilled meats until we were satisfied and to signal when we’d had enough. It was quite refreshing not to have to make a decision. We were encouraged to help ourselves to the salad bar before the meat procession could commence. We ordered some Argentinian malbec .The wine glasses were enormous and balloon like, which was a good touch, as our wine was fairly modest. The table was laid with cutlery that meant business; weighty steak knives and tongs. The exuberant salad bar looked like  a photoshoot from an eighties cruise ship. The buffet had an island with a canopy on it in the centre and included labelled platters of devilled eggs, fanned out displays of cold meats and prawns, hearts of palm, bean salads, smoked salmon and every salad imaginable really. There were scallop edged salad servers and garnishes at every opportunity. Vegetarians were well catered for here. We all took a heaped plate back to our table.
The salads were actually rather delicious. The boys were worried about filling up on anything other than meat. The first delivery was some beef brisket on a skewer. It was sliced beside each person to pluck with their little tongs. Tasty, well seasoned and pink in the middle. So far so good. The next round was over faster than you could say ‘Rio de Janeiro’. It was just a torrent of meat coming at us thick and fast. Chicken wrapped in bacon, pork loin, sausages and  leg of lamb. Proper horseradish sauce and mustards were brought over at our request, as was mint jelly. Bright green and radioactive looking, I decided to give this a miss At one point we were offered some respite, some grilled pineapple to cleanse the palate, I was initially dismissive but it really did work wonders to refresh us and open up the stomach for further expansion. Filet mignon and Kobe beef were the stars of the show. My mouth is watering just remembering these fabulous hunks of beef. My girlfriend and I finally signalled that we’d had enough .The Juggernaut, (whose salad plate was almost untouched )and his wing man beckoned the waiter over for further helpings of Filet Mignon. We were very happy campers.

By the time we’d finished eating were nearing the end, we were the only table left in the restaurant. I wondered why more people weren’t eating here. Granted, it isn’t the most beautiful and fashionable restaurant in Nassau by any means. This place is crying out for a makeover. However, this was some of the best meat I’ve had on the island. The service was attentive. I asked for a doggy bag of scraps and was presents with a huge lamb bone parcel, packed with little chunks of unwanted meat. My potcake would feast on this for days. We asked for our bill, which came in $159.80 for food for four, plus $158 for drinks. All you can eat offers are usually something I stay well away from but this was great food at a reasonable price. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Olives Meze and Grill Cable beach shops

I went to Olives for lunch with my girlfriend from New York, who gets as excited about food as I do. We were both ravenous and eager to road test the sister restaurant to the downtown branch. It doesn't look like much from the outside but stepping inside is a whole different story.Cavernous and cosy, with an uplit stone relief wall and dark banquette seating, the interior has a sort of trendy Mediterranean taverna feel. We were met with a busy lunchtime service. Locals gossiped and grazed contentedly on Greek delights. Funky lounge music played in the background. Lots of staff buzzed about, ensuring that service ran smoothly. Our waiter was something of a ladies man, buttering us up with small talk and offers of wine. We had various male servers coming at us from all angles, which is not something that usually happens when I’m with my husband.
The owner brought over some complimentary homemade bread, baked by his wife. Soft, fluffy focaccia with caramelised onion embedded in it. Utterly divine.
The menu is very similar to that of the downtown branch, with it’s highly lauded gyros and other delicious Mediterranean specialities. There was a blackboard with specials on, a selection of meze and a list of tempting homemade burgers. The grilled octopus made my eyes light up when I spotted it on the menu. If it was anything like the dish I had at the Greek festival, we were in for a royal treat. Regrettably the kitchen had run out. There were some brilliantly named dishes, like Flaming Saganiki and Louganico. We chose to share a few of the meze starters; Olives Tuna Tataki ($11.50), Calamari ($9.95), Spanakopita $5.95 and a Greek salad $10.95. We had to restrain ourselves to not over-order. Extra napkins were brought over in anticipation of the serious eating we were about to embark upon.
After a short wait, a barrage of gleaming square plates arrive at our table, looking very promising. There was a generous portion of crispy calamari, a plate of mouth watering sliced rare tuna and the Spanakopita; a pastry parcel containing spinach and feta. We dived in with our forks amid squeals of delight. ‘Good food makes me happy’ exclaimed my companion. I couldn’t agree more. Bad food, incidentally, makes me grumpy. The tuna was a bit on the dry side and really benefited from being smothered in the lemon balsamic dressing, which was superb. The squid was lovely and moist, not at all rubbery, with a delicate batter and a tasty marinara sauce. Great value too given the size of the portion we got. The Greek salad was large and well dressed. The Spanakopita was rich, salted and tasty but ultimately too dense, due to the weight of the pastry. It didn’t have the flakiness of filo, more closely resembling pie crust. Overall, though, we were two happy punters.
A complimentary lime and ginger square was brought over the instant we had finished it all. I rounded it all off with a decent espresso.I was really impressed with the service, they had gone the extra mile to make a good impression, whilst maintaining a very relaxed, easy going approach. The prices are very competitive. The addition of Olives will be a real boost to the Cable beach shops. I get the feeling it will become a regular nightime hangout for me. Dinner service is due to start in a couple of weeks, yipee.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The New Wine Lounge East Bay St Nassau

With such an enticing name, I was strongly drawn to this establishment. Now open for about a month, The Juggernaut and I went along for a weekend dinner. Amos, the manager greeted us with buckets full of charm and charisma. Inside the sweet little building,  amber lights were dimmed and ochre walls were flanked with sleek racks proudly displaying bottles of all things vineous. The restaurant was almost  full, with a mix of drinkers and diners, from glammed up girls to  grown up families. Lively banter reverberated around the room. Easy listening tunes played in the background at a polite volume.

The wine list offered a selection of familiar grapes Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Merlots, Malbecs , mostly from California, Chile and Argentina. A little restrictive considering the great drops hailing from Western Europe, Australia and South Africa. It would be nice to see some more adventurous wines from further afield. Wines can be tasted in small quantities before committing to a bottle. We ordered a bottle of Californian Tempranillo for $40 and got stuck in.

The eclectic menu had a real mish mash of food from Asian to Italian. There were a long list of tapas, not of Spanish origin, that included lemongrass shrimp skewer and mini beef Wellingtons, from $10. There were also some jazzy sounding pizzas such as the ‘Napastyle’; prosciutto and goats cheese with figs poached in syrah ($22) and the ‘Yukon gold’ potatoes, mushroom in white truffle cream ($24). There was also the mysterious Gluten and Casin free pizza, which mentioned no ingredients at all but had the allergic’s best interests at heart.

We started with a portion of tempura crab cakes ($15) between us. They arrived looking a bit uninspiring, two brown lumps with a pot of sticky stuff, the pineapple salsa. There wasn’t much crab in them at all and I couldn’t distinguish the pineapple. Oh well.
For main course I opted for the Hog snapper with a creamy Vidalia onion and blackcurrant cabernet sauce ($29). J went for the lamb burger ($20); ‘a burger like no burger I’ve tasted before,’ declared Amos. He couldn’t recommend it enough. The main courses arrived before our plates had been cleared, as though we were being rushed through. My fish was surrounded by a thick lumpy sauce and accompanied by a neat pile of lettuce with dainty slivers of tangerine in it.  I have to confess I wasn’t chomping at the bit to eat it. I stared at it whilst we waited for cutlery.
My fish wasn’t terribly fresh. The onion sauce was technically gravy and really would have been much more at home with some really nice roast chicken. I lost interest in hacking at it after a while. The burger, unfortunately, didn’t really taste of lamb . It was lost amongst the cinnamon and other spices. It desperately needed some fries with it too.

I glanced back at the bar. A man was happily yanking cheese strands from a tasty looking pizza. Quite a few of the other diners had ordered pizza. I think this was a wise move. And it soaks up the booze well too. Plenty of room left for dessert, we ordered a chocolate pannacotta with banana caramel and roasted nuts ($9) from a list including guava duff pizza and guava rum cake with homemade coconut ice cream. There was clearly a glut of guavas to be used up! I felt a strong urge for some dessert wine but my desires, alas, could not be sated. The shipment had not arrived at the dock yet. The pannacotta arrived in a martini glass looking irresistible.  A creamy concoction of chocolate, banana, cinnamon and a little bit of crunch from the nuts, it went some way in redeeming the previous courses.

I see the Wine Lounge first and foremost as  a watering hole, despite the ambitious menu. I’d come back to work my way through the wine list and share some pizza but thought the food we tried was inconsistent and overpriced. I hope to be proven wrong. There were definitely a few holes in the service, which could be forgiven as teething problems. However, the central location, welcoming staff, a good choice of wines and the cosy atmosphere will ensure a steady clientele.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nesbitt's, Delaporte, West Bay St, Nassau


It was an ordinary weeknight evening, around that time when thoughts turn to what to have for dinner. I peered into the fridge to examine its contents, to be faced with little more than milk, cabbage and condiments. It was an all too easy decision to go out. Feeling the need for some proper Bahamian food, the Juggernaut and I popped round the corner to Nesbitt’s.
A much loved local institution, Nesbitt’s has been around for several decades. We walked into the perfectly air conditioned bar. Smooth booty shaking r + b tunes boomed from the jukebox by the door. Lights were dimmed and mostly off or not working. There were posters of beer adverts on the walls. It looked a bit like the slightly retro bedroom of a teenage boy. The marbled concrete tiles and vinyl chairs had probably been here since the place first opened. The room felt lived in and cosy. Men perched at the bar, legs akimbo, cradling a Kalik. A single fan mounted on the wall cooled them as they talked about their day at work and half heartedly followed the basketball game on TV. Everybody seemed at ease, bobbing their heads to the music of early Shaggy and Luther Vandross.
We sat in a cosy nook by the window. A buxom waitress was over to us in a jiffy to take our drinks order. Resplendent with gold bangles and curly copper wig, she exuded warmth and hospitality. Her hazel coloured contact lenses had a mildly hypnotic effect on us. The gloriously tacky menu, complete with sunset photos of palm trees, offered a good selection of tropical dishes. There was sheep tongue souse, for $12 and pig feet souse for $6. I’m not yet brave enough to eat these animal parts. Hopefully it’s something I can build up to. Appetisers included the enticingly named cut up chicken for $6, conch fritters for $5 and pork chops for $10. Dinners included crack conch ribs, shrimp and grouper with various typical side orders such as peas ‘n’ rice.
Kaliks arrived shortly afterwards, their heads wrapped in paper turbans. I asked our lady what the best thing on the menu was. In a heartbeat she said the sautéed grouper, smothered in butter and gently cooked with sweet peppers and onions. She had such a mesmerising smile I felt compelled to go with her recommendation. I picked coleslaw, plaintain and corn to fill the rest of the plate. The Juggernaut, who like me always has a hearty appetite, ordered the sautéed shrimp, with mac n cheese, coleslaw and corn.
Our food arrived, two heaped plates, the smell of island spices drifting from the rising steam. I bit into the succulent grouper, an explosion of hot buttery pepper and lime. It was anything but bland. Crunchy freshly made coleslaw offered temporary relief from the heat of the fish. I found the deep fried plaintain an acquired taste to have with fish, as it’s so close in flavour to banana. I’d sooner have it for dessert with some vanilla ice cream. The only drawback with the grouper was the abundance of bones, which I was constantly pulling out of my mouth. J’s shrimp was lovely and tender, with a more pronounced buttery flavour. His wedge of mac n cheese was a real gut buster; almost a cake of pasta.
 Our waitress swiftly cleared our table, asking how we enjoyed it, taking pride in her work. I felt satisfied and well looked after. Welcome. This cuisine is good for the soul if not the waistline. Eating this food sure puts a smile on your face. The bill came in at around $55, not bad for a large portion of down home cooking. I’ll be back to this haven of hospitality before long and might even be persuaded to try the souse.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Carmine's, Atlantis, Paradise Island

Carmine's, Marina Village

The Juggernaut organised dinner here on a whim, high on endorphins after his ten mile run. We were in the market for some carbs so with this in mind we set off towards Paradise Island. From the little I knew about Carmine's, an Italian trattoria catering mostly to tourists from Atlantis, I was aware that they served up enormous portions of pasta 'family style'.
A hearty welcome awaited us at the front desk and we were then left to our own devices to locate our friends.Walking into the great hall, past its false beams and brick arches I felt we were extras on the set of an Eighties mafia B- movie that went straight to video. A small child could easily go missing in this vast space and not be discovered for days. However, we eventually located our friends waving frantically in the distance and headed past tables full of families on holiday with forkfulls of spaghetti and slightly defeated expressions on their faces.
The friendly waitress was over to us in a flash, clearly trained to the standards of American service. The laminated menu consisted of Pasta, Seafood, Steaks and Chops, all fairly straightforward. The dishes are designed for sharing between four to six people. We chose a Mixed Seafood Pasta ($55) and a Chicken Parmigiana ($28) with a side order of, you guessed it, pasta. You could choose the type of pasta you wanted, which I think should be left up to the chef, and ominously either red or white sauce, whatever that meant. We opted for linguine and white sauce. A basket of bread was brought to the table, of which the sundried tomato encrusted focaccia was the highlight, despite being a bit soggy.
Our food arrived too quickly, within ten minutes we were presented with a vat of pasta drenched in clear brown liquid with an array of slightly dry frozen seafood, mussels, clams, overcooked lobster, large prawns, squid rings mixed through it. Unfortunately I couldn't identify a single ingredient in the pasta sauce but I believe it was meant to contain white wine, garlic, onion, parsley and olive oil. Perhaps it should have been sent of to a laboratory for analysis.
Parmesan was offered to sprinkle on the seafood; a practise of which I vehemently disapprove, with few exceptions. The Chicken Parmigiana was a large slab of flattened chicken breast, covered with tomato puree and suffocating underneath a blanket of cheese. I was mesmerised by it. I hadn't seen this much cheese on a pizza before, let alone on a poor chicken breast. Would we need liposuction after eating all this? Needless to say, we couldn't finish the two dishes between the five of us.
Dessert was out of the question. After the table was cleared, a lone strand of linguine was left behind on the table cloth, with a small oil slick emanating from it. Slumped in our chairs in a pasta induced coma, we quietly sipped our espressos, waiting patiently for our bloated tummies to deflate. We sat there for quite some time.
Carmine's is one of four restaurants; two of which are in New York, the other in a casino in New Jersey. Described as 'NYC's legendary Family Style Italian Restaurant' on the website, it was a far cry from real Italian food, made with thought and understanding. The efficiently churned out meals and high turnover are typical of a chain restaurant. I found the food bland, over processed and frankly, pretty forgettable.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mahogany House, Mahogany Hill, West Bay St, Nassau

I had heard good things about Mahogany, the hotly anticipated, newly opened restaurant near Lyford Cay. Having just relocated from a city where good eateries are not hard to come by, I often found myself underwhelmed by the restaurants on the island. A new addition to the West which did not require membership or only served lunch was a refreshing addition to the scene. I made a reservation a few days ahead for a Friday night; at which point there was only a 6pm or 9pm sitting available; a good sign. I took the Juggernaut (my significant other, who is solidly built but certainly no fatty) and we headed over. 
Walking through vast Mahogany doors through a bustling bar into the contemporarily designed room, with it's banquette seating, simply laid wooden tables without linens and shelving displaying an impressive array of wines, I felt transported back to the urban dining spots I knew and loved. The lighting was soft and flattering, worlds away from some of the harsh white lit rooms I had encountered elsewhere here. The clientele was a well heeled mix of silver haired expats and glamorous couples, all happily chattering away. 
Soon after being seated, we were offered some complimentary sparkling water, something I had never encountered before and a nice touch. The menu is concise and clear, devoid of unnecessary description and full of the sort of food I enjoyed eating. It was also confined to one page, which I always find reassuring. A menu offering too much choice is rarely a good thing in my experience. The cooking is Modern European, with a broad selection of Salumi, some salad (not a Caesar in sight), various pastas, pizzas, meats including duck and pork; something to cater to all tastes. There was even a cheese section; with fourme d'ambert, tallegio and manchego; a joy to behold as I had been longing for some fine cheese.
The wine list was extensive, with down to earth descriptions, removing any pretension from the decision making process. As I am not that knowledgeable about wines but know what I like and enjoy seeing different grapes on a menu, I found it easy to navigate . The restaurant manager, Chris Farnham, was clearly passionate and knowledgeable. He was conducting an impromptu tasting on the table next to ours and had just ordered a further six hundred cases. There is a wonderful wine cellar beneath the restaurant, which doubles up as a private dining room.
After much deliberation we made our decisions and placed our order; I plumped for the quail with grilled radicchio, pancetta and barley to start. The Juggernaut chose the terrine of wild mushroom, asiago, balsamic and polenta. While we waited, albeit not for too long, we were presented with some delicious roast red pepper crostini amuse bouches; a great way to kick of a meal and make it feel special. Our lovely waitress brought the starters over whilst we were still tucking into the bread and olive oil . The quail was wonderfully bronzed and glistening, cooked perfectly for such a small bird, still moist, smothered with the rustic combination of pancetta, radicchio and barley; a deeply comforting dish with depth of flavour. I was one happy punter. The terrine was heavy on Polenta; which has a pretty divisive texture and flavour; but worked well with the wild mushrooms, although there could have been more of them. All washed down with hearty gulps of Pinot Noir, it was bliss.
For main course, I chose the cod with squash puree and braised cabbage. It arrived looking a bit anaemic but I have to confess all the elements were well cooked; even if the combination was a little bizarre. The Juggernaut had the chicken with Chorizo, Fingerlings and wild mushroom; a warming earthy dish which gave rise to food envy. The portions are polite but not tight and designed to be eaten in one sitting. No styrofoam takeaways needed here. For the really hungry, there are imaginative side orders such as truffled potato and root vegetable gratin, quinoa tabbouleh, roasted brussel sprouts. 
New Years resolutions aside, we could not forgo dessert, so we ordered a Pannacotta with chocolate Espresso, cookies and mint coulis. The textures and flavour were really well balanced; with the Espresso keeping the pannacotta the right side of sweet. Needless to say it didn't stay on the plate for long. Sadly, there was no room left to acccomodate any cheese on this occasion.
 Head chef Dan Quirk, came over to chat about our food and overall impression, then took the time to give us a tour of us the market shop and cellar. Mahogany appears to have really filled a gap in the market here for great food, cooked with love, care and innate understanding, without the hefty price tags. A love of hog has even been incorporated into the name of the restaurant. It is arguably the best restaurant on the island. It really deserves to do well; it would thrive in London, Barcelona or New York and should continue to do a stonking trade here. I can't wait to return and work my way through the menu.