Craving the Cove

By Peta Phipps

I got lost at The Cove and discovered a new Atlantis…

I woke up on a Thursday and decided I wanted to get to the Bahamas by the weekend. I had four days free and wanted to just go big, but adult big. Hopping to one of the Out Islands was tempting, but I didn’t want to go too quiet. I had heard that The Cove at Atlantis was a sexy alternative to the other towers at the hotel. If I am being totally honest, the slides, dolphins, casino, and dining choices all within Atlantis, made it more appealing than a remote island with fewer options. Let’s be frank, I wanted it all and I got it all at The Cove.

I checked in at the VIP Crescent Lounge after being picked up in a sleek black SUV. The process was oh so smooth, and in no time, I found myself up on (almost) the tippy-top floor of The Cove, in a Deluxe Ocean Suite.  The views were nothing short of spectacular. I overlooked a portion of the crescent shaped cove that shares its name with this part of the resort, and a vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean flowing towards the west. This was a most excellent suite! The views of sunset were going to be unobstructed and my first evening, I was hoping to catch the light show before heading out for drinks and dinner. As luck would have it, I was to sit under the sunset at Sip Sip with a friend of mine who lives on the island. Mind you, I was far from opposed to this idea. I was on Paradise Island about a year ago, and heard tell that Sip Sip was going to be opening at The Cove, but wasn’t quite ready yet. Sip Sip, short for gossip, is based on the original restaurant on Harbour Island. Julie Lightbourn, proprietor and chef did more than lend the name to The Cove, she trained the staff, created the menu and established the kitchen as it needed to be for her recipes. The authenticity is uncanny. If I were not surrounded by the adult’s only pool area, outdoor casino and pulsing beats of The Cove pool, I may have thought I had mistakenly booked a ticket to the Out Islands and wound up on Harbour Island.

Closing my eyes, after ordering from the menu of an eclectic mix of “Caribterranean” dishes, I tried to mentally transport myself to the quiet shores of the Out Islands. It sort of worked until our first dish arrived and I had to open my eyes to eat and not be rude to my dining companion. I had a hankering for some conch, but wanted something warm, at the same time. Wouldn’t you know that the conch chili fit the bill perfectly? I had that as Rach, my guest for the meal, went in for the lobster quesadillas. Once those appetizers arrived, there was no closing of eyes and no need to try and transport ourselves anywhere but right here under the setting sun, as the long shadows of the afternoon had dissipated and the towering structure that is The Cove, stood watch over us. We were in paradise. The rest of the menu looked scrumptious, but this was only to be pre-dinner snacks and drinks. Feeling divided, I had to leave on the high note of knowing I would be back sooner rather than later.

My next move should have been to the gym, but alas, it was merely back to the suite for another change of clothes. Tonight was going to be fabulous at Nobu and I had less than an hour to get my act together. As with all of Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurants, this one is not to be missed. We were lucky enough to have the VIP treatment and Chef Andy came out with every dish he hand selected for us that evening. I was on cloud nine. The yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño was first out and I may have asked for it three or four more times throughout the evening. Don’t judge. The conch shabu shabu with Nobu sauce was also a massive hit. I love how you can find local flavors on any Nobu menu around the world. This really is a nice touch and gives diners a sense of place. We were sent lobster mini tacos, ribeye mini tacos, and then whitefish and live conch sashimi. Still in heaven, just loosening the halo around my waist a little bit, but still completely in heaven. We never once looked at a menu, after sitting down. We were in good hands from the start, and by the way, those were just the starters. We dabbled in edamame and spicy tuna salad, but had the hearts of palm salad been any more delicious, the next several plates would have been hard to swallow.

When the teriyaki lamb hit the table, we both got our second wind. I think the rest of the restaurant was wondering who we were. Not only because Chef Andy was wonderfully ever-present at our table, but because we were eating so many dishes, they must have thought we had guests under the table. Alas, ‘twas just us enjoying the heck out of these amazing dishes. The osusume, which means recommendation, in Japanese, ranged from spicy Bahamian lobster, all the way to pork belly spicy miso caramel with ginger salsa. Guess what we had…that’s right. We enjoyed the pork belly along with some spicy seafood soup. To finish the meal, we had to try the black cod, which was rumored to be the hit of the evening. It did not disappoint. In hindsight, we probably should have eaten our way up the menu, because it looks like chef served us from top to bottom. Whichever way you slice it, pair your meal, as we did, with any of their fine crafted cocktails and you’ll forget about any calories that may have hopped off of your plate an into your tummy. This was an unbelievable start to a few days of relaxing and enjoying The Cove. Nobu is located just off the casino, and as we emerged through the glowing green archway, we already felt like winners. No need to press our luck tonight. Dinner left us feeling like true high rollers.

By the time breakfast rolled around, I really wasn’t feeling terribly hungry. I popped down to Mosaic, the buffet setup off the lobby of The Cove, and grabbed some tea and bacon. I know…it’s not for everyone, but it suits me just fine when I am not famished. Besides, I was heading to a private cabana for the rest of the day. Guess where all the cabana food comes from? Sip Sip! Your girl knows how to plan her days and meals. There is no shortage of great dining options at The cove, and on a grander scale in all of Atlantis. I was so glad to have this cabana all to myself. I had Judy Bahamas as my butler, in all her purple glory. Hard to explain, so you need to come see her for yourself. The bright cheery purple lipstick, glittery purple eyeshadow and purple hair accessories give away her penchant for the color. Her spirit is just a vibrant and her style of service leaves nothing to be desired. My cabana day was fraught with relaxation and envy. (Envy from every other person that was not in a cabana and could spy me from the pool and/or the beach.) I on the other hand, was filled with Sip Sip conch salad and ahi tuna poke trio, all accompanied by piña coladas. The day went on and on, in a good way, and my time spent reflecting on the busy schedule back in Florida gave me time to reorganize my thoughts. It was another day in paradise her at The Cove. I have a confession to make. I was supposed to go to the Mandara Spa for massage therapy, but I was so comfortable in the cabana that when they came for me, they saw the look of relaxation in my eyes and offered to bring the therapists (there were two) right to me in the cabana. Can you imagine who quickly I agreed? The waves lapping at the shore of the cove, right outside of my cabana, was my focus until I drifted off to the ancient Balinese touches of the masseuses.

Still in paradise…I awoke from treatment feeling rejuvenated and happy. I was ready to take on the rest of the day, or what remained of it.  Rach and I had already planned to meet in the Marina Village where McKenzie himself, of McKenzie’s Fresh Conch Outpost. This Bahamian legend is known for his original conch shack over the bridge, only 5 min drive from Atlantis. What a treat that was. We ate conch with lime, mango, tomato, onion and salt and nothing ever tasted quite as good as this. Once again, we were ecstatic but this was not dinner. Dinner was to be at Seafire Steakhouse, just a few steps away. There was a Junkanoo band approaching in the distance, as I placed my order. The manager was a pure gentleman. As I was dining alone tonight, he quickly came to my side and guided me out the door so I could experience this Bahamian parade. The men on stilts, trumpeters, drummers, dancers and rake-n-scrape players were bedecked in bright colors and feathers. All I could do was smile and dance right along with them troupe. The excitement and joy was seen in the faces of all the people in the Marina Village. The little kids were excited and parents were delighted. I am so thankful I got to experience this. Chef Alex Ochs was diligently tending to my order, so that once I returned to the table, my starter of blistered Shisito peppers (I had to go light) were on their way to meet me. That lightness at the start was in anticipation of the ever so fresh barrel cut filet and mashed potatoes that I settled on after debating to get them or the Wagyu short ribs and crispy brussels sprouts. Decisions here are not easy, people…not easy at all. There is one exception though. For me, the sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce and  vanilla ice cream for dessert is the only way to go.

At the end of the evening, I was extremely pleased that The Cove, and my suite, were on the far end of the resort. I could use the walk and had I not worn heels, I would have jogged. By the time I got to bed, I was already thinking ahead to the next morning. There would be a lot of feeding, but not myself this time. I would be having a VIP encounter with some of the most adorable wildlife at the resort. I got to interact with the dolphins in Dolphin Cay and then with the lead marine mammal behaviorist, I got up close and personal with other sea creatures. They take such good care in rescuing wildlife and nurturing them back to health, my heart was full. Looking at the towers that make up Atlantis, one could easily imagine there being no heart to the establishment, but nothing could be further from the truth. The care and attention given to the animals is to be applauded. The staff are like family to each other and also to the animals in their care. It’s a beautiful and rare moment to get this close to the inner workings of animals being nurtured back to health. My time here should have been only about an hour, but I could hardly tar myself away from some of the sea animals.  I was back to the dolphins before I left. They are so intelligent, I must have spoken to them for more than an hour. They were responsive just to my voice. This was a beautiful day.

As it came to an end, I was finally in my suite long enough to actually catch the sunset and just as I imagined, it was glorious. A few moments on my balcony before heading inside to get ready for another VIP experience at Fish by José Andrés. After spending the after interacting with everything from jellyfish (so sensual) to sea lions (so loveable), I was wondering how I would feel dining at this magnificent seafood restaurant. Well, I ate an entire lion fish and I felt fine! They’re an invasive species, so I was only helping out. In all seriousness, the service and food here are also for the sophisticated traveler. The details in the décor are carried through to the food they serve. Impeccable quality throughout. I know it sounds dangerous to eat a poisonous fish, but I knew I could trust the team here at The Cove, to prepare a death-defying meal that was fit for a queen.

The past few days were filling to say the least. Now that I am back home, all I do is crave the Cove. www.atlantisbahamas.com/rooms/suites/thecoveatlantissuites

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