CLOSED: Mesa Grill (Bahamas)

Location: Paradise Island, Bahamas 
Address: 1 Casino Drive West (inside The Cove at the Atlantis)
Type of Meal: Dinner

During our last visit to Atlantis, a conference was taking place and snapping up reservations at many restaurants across the resort. Mesa Grill was one of those spots that was booked solid for dinner. It was a bit disappointing I wouldn’t be able to eat at Bobby Flay’s 6th restaurant in his budding empire. I enjoy the Food Network – not as a learning mechanism, but rather to salivate at the dishes being displayed. Chef Flay’s creations, to me, had always seemed down-to-earth but promised to be packed of flavours.

Five years later, during a brief return visit, my chance to dine at Mesa Grill was fulfilled. Moreover, this time we were staying at the Cove (one of the many buildings at Atlantis), so dining there was even easier since it was but steps from the elevator bank. The stars couldn’t align any better.

The restaurant is spacious with tables everywhere – which made it that much more surprising we weren’t able to secure reservations last time. Perhaps they saw me shivering from their over air conditioned lounge/waiting area or they knew I’d appreciate seeing action, but we ended up being seated at the table directly in front of kitchen. People were bustling and the stone pizza oven was ablaze adding some much needed warmth to the chilly restaurant.

On the advice of a friend, my husband and I both started with the crab and corn chowder ($12). He raved about it and warned it would be a dish that we wouldn’t want to share. Since we didn’t try other appetizers, it’d be hard to confirm it’s indeed the best starter. But, we both thoroughly enjoyed the soup and it was my favourite dish of the meal.

The corn puree base was sweet, thick and had just the right touch of creaminess to it. Clumps of crab meat were dotted throughout along with chives and tortilla chips to add crunch. But, it’s the drizzle of chilli oil atop everything that’s the most surprising, adding that kick that Chef Flay is known for. The complementary jalapeno corn bread and doughy bread knots were great for wiping up chowder remnants from the shallow dish.

After such a strong start our mains were disappointing in comparison. The sixteen spice chicken ($39), although tender, was much too tame for something promising sixteen spices. The dry rub really didn’t add much so most of the flavour came from the much too tangy tamarind barbecue sauce on the plate. As a saving grace, the bits of red cabbage and jicama slaw topping the chicken was delicious and could easily be made into a side dish for purchase.

The pan roasted shrimp ($45) would be a better choice with three huge prawns cooked nicely. The sweet corn puree on the bottom was also delicious but became overwhelmed by the smoked chile butter and cotija sauce. There was simply too much of this rich oversalted sauce that it covered the subtle sweetness of the shrimp and corn. In my opinion, the sauce would be better suited for the leaner chicken instead.

For sides, we shared the Southwestern fries ($9.50) and a sweet potato tamale ($9.50). The fries, although crispy and fresh, lacked anything special to classify them as “Southwestern” or warrant the price.

The sweet potato tamale ($9.50), albeit much too sweet for my liking, at least showed some creativity and skill. The tamale was smooth and flavourful, infused with corn kernels and topped with a crushed pecan butter sauce. You could even consider ordering this as a dessert as it was certainly sweet enough and satisfying.

Instead, my husband and I had the churros ($13) to share. It’s hard to go wrong with freshly deep fried dough dusted with sugar and spices. These were enjoyable by themselves or dipped into the chocolate sauce on the side. Thankfully, the star anise was only subtly added so the licorice flavour wasn’t too pronounced and went well with the sauce.

The service was efficient and friendly, but lacked the flair you’d expect for a restaurant classified as “fine dining”. If you were only going to have one nicer meal at Atlantis, I’d suggest Café Martinique instead. Prices are a touch higher but the dishes better executed (the duck was delicious) and the atmosphere more refined.

In the end, I’m happy I had the chance to try Mesa Grill and Chef Flay’s menu. But, as with most celebrity chef restaurants, too often you’re paying for the name rather than substance.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!