Connect me to:
Double Dragon (Nassau, the Bahamas)
||No. 1 Bridge Plaza,|
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2003 Issue: 10(3) page: 17 and 36
Are there any BBC's in Nassau? This alphabet lingo means Bahamian-Born-Chinese. Do these BBC's own or operate and really good Chinese restaurants there? A reader asked, and we needed answers as a trip to Paradise Island was on the horizon.
High-tailing to our favorite map store, we check things out perusing their travel guides. One lists a single Chinese restaurant in Nassau that featured Broiled New York Sirloin, Surf and Turf, and other Chinese and non-Chinese food. It was called East Villa and with those emphases decided to skip their Chinese chow. Other guidebooks write about two other Chinese restaurants. We will check them out. What did two to three hundred Chinese living among the three hundred fifty thousand Bahamians do in this sunny place? Most Chinese detest the sun and tote umbrellas while the rest of us grab a tan.
Before the Bahamian Independence Day in 1972, one source indicates there are twice that number of Chinese. When we ask a native where they went, he said: "Voted against it." Did they leave the Bahamas because they voted with the losers? Doubt we would learn about that, but perhaps we could learn what they ate? He also said that Bahamians import most fruits, vegetables, meat and fish, but not conch. We plan to check on that, too.
Off we go; and when we arrive, we check the local phone directory and see twenty Chinese restaurants listed on Nassau. Later learn that most are tiny take-out places. Also learn that Paradise Island, a minute’s drive over the bridge, has only one, Mama Loo’s, in the four thousand or so room fancy-schmantzy Hotel Atlantis. We have arranged rooms in the Comfort Suites, literally just across the street to celebrate a fiftieth anniversary. Settled in and on the day after arriving, go to seek out good restaurants, Bahamian and Chinese.
Truth be told, weeks before leaving, we had written to the public relations folk at Atlantis, and to East Villa and to the other guide-book-touted Chinese restaurant called 'Double Dragon' and sent them copies of this magazine, but none responded. Call them all and a fourth place listed in our hotel guide book. Mama Loo’s PR director does not return repeated calls on several days, so we drop by to check out that menu. Prices are as elevated as their multi-storied buildings. Too high. They tower above every other Chinese restaurant in nearby Nassau. How high? Their Wok-fried Sliced Garoupa Filet in Chile Sauce lists at twenty-six bucks and Mama Loo’s Mixed Seafood Selection is a whopping thirty-nine American dollars.
After days of trying to arrange a tasting or dinner at Mama Loo’s, finally have limited success on our last day there. We only ask to taste West Lake Beef-Egg Flower Soup and it disappoints. Actually, it is close to tasteless and resembles egg drop soup, not much beef added. The yolks are appropriately removed, the decor of mushroom usually found on top, is too. The fried noodles that come with it are yummy and grease-free, but the two dipping sauces for them are sweet and virtually tasteless, too.
J.J. King is Mama Loo's Number One chef. He has the company of only one other Chinese cook in their kitchen. This restaurant would not allow him to speak to me unaccompanied. Nor is he supposed to speak about the restaurant, I have to agree to that. He can comment about Chinese food in general. The public relations office tells me "No one comes to review this Chinese restaurant because it was not what reporters are interested in." They have arranged an interview with Mr. King but a sous-chef-hotel-sent observer was present. J.J. tells us he came three years ago; and added that before that the Chinese restaurant was called: 'Coyaba.' Never learned why about either name. Maybe they need to learn that if its so tough and restrictive to get an interview, why would a reporter review it?
They also need to know that with that type of conversation control, one imagines being in China, circa the 1980's. What are they afraid of? What are they hiding? We will never know. We do sneak in a question about King’s Chinese cooking. He comments about preparing ordinary Chinese food there which he says is what the customers want. Really? Maybe that is why this one-hundred forty-five seat restaurant is closed on Sundays and on another day, if there is low hotel occupancy.
Before that experience, we do try Chinese food elsewhere. The best, several days earlier, is at Double Dragon. Ordered ten dishes off their extensive menu that delighted twelve of us. The cost, $133.00, gratuity included. Owned by Eugene Wong, himself a BBC, since his restaurant opened in 1991, and he was delighted to chat with us. He apologizes for not responding to the letter, compliments the magazine, and tells us his eighty-seat restaurant keeps him hopping.
Mr. Wong owns two other Chinese restaurants, both downtown. One is only for take-out, the other serves lunch daily but dinner only when cruise ships are in port; which is four days a week. The one we eat at is his first, this Double Dragon; 1 Bridge Plaza at Mackey Street; phone: 242-3935718 is well worth seeking out. We walk there, only ten minutes from our Paradise Island hotel, just over one of the car bridges to Nassau. We also walked to our favorite Bahamian Restaurant called: 'Crocodile' and over the other bridge to Nassau.
Wong’s heritage is Southern China, his grandfather arrived here in the 1930's. His dad came some years later. He has several Chinese imports, a wife and three chefs, all from Guangdong and a settlement nearby. He has other imports, as a good portion of his food is, be it tofu, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, etc. They come from Miami, Florida. Should his once weekly delivery by ship run out, he can call and have foods flown in.
Wong works hard tending the front along with several Bahamian assistants. They service a continuous flow of locals ordering take-out. That has a twenty dollar minimum. Dining in, we are serviced by a pool of caring, relaxed, exceptionally polite Bahamian waiters and waitresses who impress us, as does the food they serve.
Some dishes are so good, we orchestrate a return as a banquet to celebrate the 50th for our last night in the Bahamas. In typical fashion, we have a lengthy banquet-menu discussion. Mr. Wong suggests a typical menu, we add a snail dish from the regular menu having delighted and devoured it on our first visit, and a few other items. With talk finished, Mr. Wong writes it on his stationery, (and you can see it a page in the hard copy of this issue of Flavor and Fortuen). It sounds ordinary, but having eaten from the regular menu days before, we believe it will be fine. And it is even better than that!
On that evening, shortly after we arrive, a dozen others came to celebrate their own birthday bash. Later, they share their cake with us, and we are appreciative. However, it is no competition with the Chinese food that begins with two platters of cold appetizers buried under shrimp chips, which bought forth a moment of angst. It quickly evaporates after the first bite.
The jelly fish was the best, thatt told us we were in for a treat. Every baby octopus on it was phenomenal, too. So were the other simple-sounding items, Pork Shank and Soy Chicken. The portions were more than ample and we did manage to finish them all, with one exception.
Seafood Soup with Bean Curd comes next. It is thick with half dozen swell swimmers joined by a few tiny bites of tofu and plenty of chopped coriander. Many of us indulge in two bowls even knowing there is much more to come. And, the Salt and Pepper Squid that follow delighted everyone.
The Escargot in Black Bean Sauce are loved again, everyone deems them spectacular. The Roast Duck that comes next is crispy but just OK while the Conch with XO Sauce put us back eating to on a terrific track. To our surprise, the steak that follows is a sliced strip steak. We should have suspected because we had been told it only serves ten. No problem, there are two non-beef eaters. This steak comes surrounded by Chinese broccoli and sits on shredded carrots, strips of cucumber, and water chestnuts. Almost well done, we are surprised at how tender and tasty it is.
When the Lobster with Ginger and Scallions arrives, we note that these local lobsters have no large claws. They are succulent with a firmer texture than those we know from Long Island or Maine. One at our table is disappointed, the others devour and enjoy their good taste. The steamed fish, a large Garoupa that had been speared and brought in earlier that day is heavenly. Stuffed, it is so good, we have no trouble gobbling it down.
Last, comes the Pork Lo Mein, its long noodles wishing the happily married couple additional longevity, but probably not fifty more wonderful years. Hardly a soul could do this dish justice. Then a huge platter of fresh fruit arrives and revives us all. Every single piece on it is polished off. Likewise the fortune cookies. They are wrapped with such a different printing, we reproduce one, also in the hard copy along with the wish in the cookie your editor gets.
It would be remiss not to mention that this banquet topped everyone’s expectations. Better, more bountiful, and among the best we have enjoyed world-wide, it is truly a fantastic way celebrate a fiftieth anniversary.