Editor's note: This is a corrected version of this review.
I have to confess: Before dining at Kafé Kalik, my only taste of 'Bahamianâ?� cooking was the Bahamian seafood chowder and the Bahamian grilled steak kabobs at Bahama Breeze. So the prospect of dining on authentic cuisine from the Commonwealth archipelago naturally piqued my interest. My expectations veered toward the common Carib culprits ' conch, curries, roti ' all of which appear on KK's bill of fare, but I can't fault the restaurant for offering such un-Bahamian staples as sushi, pasta, pizza and fajitas as well. A purely authentic menu, after all, would only go so far at the Prime Outlets, where bargain-hunters typically seek out fast food to tide them over until the next round of shop-hopping.
Executive chef and Nassau native Leo Hall strikes a balance between Bahamian and Bahamianized dishes, often with mixed results. Some items, however, elicited a proclamation of 'mudda-sik!â?� ' the all-purpose expression Bahamians use in place of 'wow!â?� or 'holy shit!â?� Their 'world-famousâ?� conch chowder ($5.50), stewed with a piquant pepper sherry and brimming with potatoes, carrots and meaty chunks of mollusk, was one such dish. The fiery first course served as a contrast to the rather insipid tamarind-soy-soaked shaved carpaccio ($7), though its artful plating deserves special mention. The aesthetic arrangement of the curry crunch sushi rolls ($8) added to their palatability, the sweet flavor of mango aioli and snap of curry-batter shards meshing well with the curry-honey-cured grilled mahi-mahi.
One look at the restaurant's interior makes it clear that a lot of thought was put into the design of the large dining space ' the exhibition kitchen alone can be hypnotizing. If that same diligence had been applied to the flatiron sirloin 'bahitaâ?� ($18), it might have elevated the dish to a level of respectability. Like its Mexican cousin, the fajitas came on the requisite bedding of roasted peppers and onions, with roti served in place of tortillas. Unfortunately, many of the beef chunks were desiccated and the sizzle had fizzled by the time the hot plate was brought to the table.
The Nassau 'smudderâ?� grouper ($28) was another fizzler. The fish is described as 'pan-seared,â?� so I was a tad surprised when a cast-iron cocotte (a smaller version of the Dutch oven) was placed before me. The thick fillet looked like it had been battered and fried, then stewed with a weighty smothering of tomato sauce, but even more surprising was the overwhelming fishy essence ' grouper is one of those fish that people who don't like fish like because of its mild flavor. No matter; at least the accompanying side of peas and rice, a true Bahamian staple, was spot-on.
Coconut, another Bahamian staple, appears prominently on the dessert menu ' in the case of the coconut crème brûlée ($9.50), as a novelty ramekin. Such usage likely contributed to confection's hefty price tag, but the shell held barely enough of the rich custard for one person. The creamy capper, however, deserves top marks for presentation ' sided with a dollop of coconut ice cream on a banana-leaf runner and beautified with a flower. Warm fried doughnuts called 'duff puffsâ?� stood out in the 'tropical creameryâ?� ($4.50), an otherwise simple confection of chocolate ice cream with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle.
With financial backing from members of Orlando's Maali family and airport-concession king Tyrone Nabbie, as well as marketing support from the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism, there's no question that the restaurant is well-positioned to flourish. A Bahamian rhapsody it's not, but with a little work, Kafé Kalik should find its island rhythm.
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