Monday, October 22, 2007

What I did this Summer: Part 2, Bahamas

View of Paradise Island from the 19th floor at the Cove

I'd like to start off by saying that as far as Carribean islands are concerned, I think the Bahamas (specifically Paradise Island) is something that I will not return for--not because it's awful, just because it wasn't interesting despite the "decandence". We searched in vain for great local cuisine...and for good food in general. There were moments of clarity, but mostly it was overpriced schlock (what my companion called culinary rip-off)...even Jean-Georges' Dune Restaurant was a bit disappointing.

Anyhoo, we avoided the frightening masses of the primary Atlantis hotel (think the same craptastic guilded guido glam as the Venetian but with a water theme) by staying at the much more sedate (and tasteful) Cove on the same resort property. I was happy and given a lot of hope with my first bite after getting off my flight Thursday night at the Seaglass, the sleek, stylish, and quiet bar. (If you want throbbing, colorful and inappropriately-cladded, go to Aura in the casino at, of course, the Atlantis.) I had a wonderful snack of a very fully-packed crab cake with mint pesto, some sort of micro greens and a Ferrari Carrano Fume Blanc. Very tasty. Good experience despite our very talkative bartender. (Note: The service on the island, generally is very friendly, but slow, leisurely and a bit forgetful. And everyone will hit you up for an extra tip even though it's automatically calculated in the bill.)
The more sedate Cove Hotel on Paradise Island

We laid out by the very, very cool infinity pool most of the next day and had a light lunch of conch salad (a great medly of peppers, onions, garlic and lime juice--kind of like a spicy calamari ceviche) and a very fishy seafood roll. A little hit or miss.
That evening we went to Chez Willie's back on New Providence Island (across the bridge towards the rest of Nassau). It was, how do I say this, sheer awful. It was trying, struggling, floundering (no pun intended) towards high-end French. They served us a bready crab cake with boxed mashed potatoes, a relatively decent conch chowder (yes, more conch) that was ruined by the skin that developed for sitting under the heat lamp too long, and they even had a palette cleanser lime sorbet...which we were unfortunate to have found it accompanied by one curly hair and sticky spoons. The best part was the surf and turf...and when I say best, I mean the best display of culinary incompetence that I have seen in, well, ever. The "steak" was a thin sliver of what looked like breakfast beef. They had the audacity to ask how we wanted them cooked (medium rare is my preference). I laugh now, because it must have taken some effort to grill these slivers without cooking them through. The lobster tail was a shriveled, too salty, previously frozen piece of sadness. In fact, I was sad sitting in the moldy, old, place. I'll stop there. Don't go to Chez Willie, you appreciate the grand and inappropriate gestures (including letting the Jacobs Creek "breathe"), but it's all very awkward and sad and depressing.

The next evening, no matter what, we knew that we couldn't do as bad at Dune, one of the two Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurants on the island. The place is beautiful, set in a Carribean colonial style house with dark stained wood floors, and Asian touches made the ambience alluring and romantic. The menu, similarly, had somewhat of the same flare. We had the sweet ginger sauced tuna tartare, with lucious strips of the tender raw fish resting in a nice pool of the sauce. I had a sweet pea soup. Nice, not spectacular, but definitely not bad. I had the duck as my main. It was okay...I guess the wilted greens were the best part, sauteed in rich butter and lightly seasoned, it was simple and nice. The duck was tender and prepared medium rare. Unfortunately, it was uncreative with the asian plum sauce. Dessert was a nice bread pudding with complimentary molten cake and chocolate covered strawberries. Cute. Like our experience in Vegas, it's a lot of good show, but the food itself was very average.

Dune Restaurant at The One and Only Hotel

Our last day there, we went into town and I wanted to try something local (but ultimately, it was just for tourists): conch fritters at Conch Fritters restaurant. The fried dough balls were pretty greasy and salty with bits of the chewy seafood. B truth be known, I love anything deep fried. So it was fine with me. We also tried the grilled grouper sandwich--"eh" at best.

Conch fritter at Conch Fritters

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