Start with two parts Disney – a theme park with amazing rides, wide-eyed, energetic kids, fatigued parents and a sprinkle of fairy dust. Add three gallons Sea World, including moray eels, spiny lobsters, moon jelly fish, and lots of shark. Stir in fresh Bahamian conch and simmer under the sun. Before serving, add a shot of Las Vegas, a pinch of cruisin’ attitude, and for extra zip - a few drops of dark rum. You’ve got Atlantis Chowder.
Or maybe I should call it Marketing Mania Gumbo. The mega-resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas is brash and bawdy; a game show set ready for action…and kids love it. For the most part, adults do, too.
Yes, it’s man-made and very commercial, but there’s a quiet, chic side at The Cove and the Mandara Spa. However, most guests book the vacation for the water park and slide into fun.
Culinary interests? Atlantis offers a cornucopia of eateries. I expected high prices, but ouch, a few will soak your wallet. Eleven dollars for two bagels to go, no coffee, got me a bit percolated.
We arrived at the resort around 7:30 PM and wanted just a casual bite. Harborside Marina was suggested, but the lines looked like octopus arms swirling out restaurant doorways. We had to change clothes to get into elegant Café Martinique and their classical French cuisine. A pianist and vocalist added a soothing touch to the subdued ambiance. By the time my scrumptious sea bass arrived, I had forgotten the mayhem outside.
Next night we garnered reservations for Chop-Stix, a dimly light Chinese spot. Laura liked the pot stickers but her Sesame Chicken looked and tasted like my Chicken with broccoli, only hers was minus the greens.
Casa D’Angelo provided a memorable pasta night with almost sinful gnocchi. Creamy melted cheese, fresh herbs and little pasta nuggets popping with flavor.
For Thursday night, I’d made reservations at the Café at the Hall of Great Waters weeks in advance. When we arrived the hostess explained that our table was being set-- pointing to one close to the glass ocean wall. We were asked to wait by the aquarium and would be called.
So, we ogled groupers the size of Volkswagen bugs and eagle rays that weighted 1,200 pounds. When I turned back toward the restaurant, another family was being seated at “our table.” “That was not YOUR table,” said the maitre d’ as he led us up a level to a table directly behind the piano.
“Not here,” said my husband, so we ended up closer to the sea life, but bordering the open courtyard. Not great, but at least we had a view.
Jay ordered a gin and tonic, which came with a slice of lemon. He requested a lime. “, “No problem,” said the waiter, but we had to keep asking, over and over. We tired the water server, the bus boy and the waiter- again. Blimey!
Eventually Jay decided to just drink the cocktail, sans lime, and then was asked if he wanted a refill. He declined; ordered wine by the glass, which came AFTER his mostly uneatable dinner. He requested mashed potatoes (No problem, sir) and got polenta and undercooked salmon that was barely warm.
Laura and I order Shrimp Scampi prepared tableside. The sous chef looked bothered by the process and kept saying he was adding chives, while clearly it was chopped parsley. Must admit though, the scampi tasted tangy and fresh.
After his unpleasant meal, Jay simply asked for bill. He paid (a mandatory 15% gratuity) and we left, not feeling like complaining. But the next day I stopped by, and a call was placed for the manager. Instead of apologies and offers to make amends, I got poor excuses and was told they always prepare their salmon as described!
Skip the Café at the Hall of Great Waters.
Our last night, dining at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill proved 180 degrees opposite. The impeccable service couldn’t have been improved. Lorenzo, our waiter, was magnificent. The menu of spicy Southwestern dishes with Caribbean flair made choices difficult. Try the Sixteen Spice Chicken with caramelized mango-roasted garlic sauce. Yummy.
Murray’s Deli, a traditional NY style diner, was a no-frills choice for breakfast. They also offer some salad and sandwiches on a carry-out basis.
For more casual eating, go very early or late to Bimini Road at the Marina. They swirl delicious Mango Smoothies and the All-American burger is … a good burger.
We ate lunch at the beachside bars, surprisingly finding a saucy warm chicken wrap. Thankfully I ordered a Bahama Mama to help cool the spicy hot.
And a trip to the Caribbean is never complete without the frozen concoction of Margaritaville . Too bad my waistline is not wasting away.
For the chicken:
3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
3 tablespoons pasilla chile powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon chile de arbol
3 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Boneless chicken breasts (8-ounces each, skin on)
Combine spices in a bowl. Rub chicken breasts on skin side with rub.
** Debi’s comments
I’m not sure how the restaurant cooked the chicken, I roasted mine in the oven and it turned out great. But just to experiment I’m going to try pan frying next time