Updated: Jun 8, 2018
"Would you go back?"
Christopher, who was with us for dinner that evening, brought up this simple but most important question. The answer is very telling of one's overall rating of a restaurant.
He's absolutely right. You might say that the food was delicious, the service was good, and the venue was great. But was the restaurant compelling enough to make you want to go back?
Tonight, we put Katsuya to the test.
Katsuya's main dining room
Giant-sized kanji, the Japanese symbol for katsu meaning "win," decorated the fabric banners that hung above Katsuya's central sushi counter. All around, the upscale restaurant pulsated with an electric vibe. The beaming staff hollered "Irasshaimase!" in unison as they welcomed the constant stream of patrons.
As millennials would say, "The place was lit." After all, it's Katsuya. This particular location, inside the grand Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas, opened last August 15, 2017 to become the tenth of the legendary Japanese restaurant chain.
The signature red lips on a backlit panel by the sushi bar.
The sleek and urban interior articulated Philippe Starck's signature design. Just like the one in Las Vegas, it had the distinctive backlit panels featuring a geisha's glossy red lips and pair of eyelashes. A glass-encased kimono brilliantly separated the private dining room with walls and ceilings splashed with an artistic rendition of a dragon.
Gorgeous lashes brightened up the liquid kitchen
Reputed to deliver a "feast for the senses," Katsuya is known to powerfully match Starck's arresting design with the exceptional creations of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi. Our party of five was here to find out more and we're ready to be swept off our feet.
A glass-encased kimono separated the private dining room
Our head waiter, Chase, enthusiastically attended to us and gave us a brief introduction of the iconic culinary concept. "There are four kitchens here," he began. "One is the liquid kitchen," he pointed with his thumb to the bar behind him. "There's the sushi kitchen, the hot kitchen, and the robata (Japanese charcoal grill)." He highlighted that sharing is highly encouraged.
Chase, our head waiter
Once the inquiries about allergies were out of the way, the culinary parade began. Plate after plate, we swooned over the dishes delivered to our table. Each presentation was fabulous. With every bite, there was a party in my mouth.
It's challenging to pare down our favorites but here's our list of absolute must-haves:
Maitake Mushrooms. Upon tasting this, we all exclaimed, "OMG!" The delicious flavor oozed as I sank my teeth into the tender Maitake mushrooms that have been slowly roasted on the robata or Japanese charcoal grill. (Fun fact: Maitake mushrooms are also known to have a powerful medicinal value.)
Japanese Octopus Carpaccio
Japanese Octopus Carpaccio. Even my husband Alan, who typically doesn't eat octopus, surprised me when he raved about this Katsuya specialty starter. We were all wild about the thinly sliced octopus drenched in lemon herb relish and yuzu kosho (a Japanese seasoning similar to chili paste).
Crispy Brussel Sprouts. Those who aren't fans of Brussel sprouts will bow down to this appetizer. The separated leaves of the brussel sprouts were tossed in balsamic soy with toasted almonds, then roasted to a crispy consistency. Absolutely loved it! [Not pictured. My photo doesn't do it justice.]
Shrimp Tobanyaki - sizzling shrimp and mushrooms
Shrimp Tobanyaki. It's easy to recognize that tobanyaki means to roast on a ceramic plate. This simple but mouth-watering dish sizzled, leaving a tempting aroma. The combo of succulent shrimp and mushrooms smothered in a savory sauce was to die for.
From the Robata: Kakuni Pork Belly and Grilled Corn
Kakuni Pork Belly. Who doesn't love pork belly? Oh, but this one will change your life. The robata pork belly was so tender, it was almost impossible to pick up with chopsticks. Kakuni involves thick cubes of pork belly braised for a long period to keep it moist and tender. In robatayaki fashion, the braised pork belly are skewered and slowly cooked over a hot charcoal grill (robata). I agree with friends Omar and Danielle about giving this five stars.
I also want to point out these two menu items that were created exclusively for the Nassau location:
Conch-oyaki, a playful adaptation of conch fritters
Conch-oyaki. This is a playful interpretation of conch fritters, a popular Bahamas food specialty. Local conch is prepared tempura style, battered and deep-fried, topped with fish flakes.
Conch Salad served in a coconut shell
Conch Salad. This version innovates the traditional Potter's Cay conch salad, served in a coconut shell and topped with coconut foam.
In between oohs and ahhs over the different courses, we touched on various conversational topics ranging from politics to sports, business, and family. We simply had a great time. After we blitzed on the sumptuous dessert selections, we gushed over our astounding dinner experience. Everything. Was. Delicious.
"The flavors!" cried an emphatic Cristopher. "And the energy here is incredible." SLS Baha Mar isn't even due to open until November 14, yet the restaurant was buzzing.
Now back to the original question: "Would you go back?" All my senses answered with a standing ovation, "Without a doubt."
p.s. Remember to try their specialty cocktails too. My favorite is the Katsuya Fresh, a creative concoction of vodka, Rock sake, cucumbers and lime.
For more information about Katsuya Baha Mar and its menu, click here. They recently opened for lunch from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Open daily for dinner from 5:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
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