Nearly 80 restaurants in Atlantic County are offering dining deals for the fifth annual culinary bonanza March 3-9.
The 2013 edition of Atlantic City’s Restaurant Week (March 3-9), celebrating its wood anniversary at five years, is singular for several reasons.
This year 79 restaurants throughout Atlantic County — not just Atlantic City — will participate, offering a three-course evening meal for $33.13. Thirty-four of those eateries also serve similar lunches for $15.13. There are quite a few new spots to explore — most notably many of Revel’s food providers — and we love the creativity being shown by chefs.
The most significant difference this year remains our regional restaurant industry’s continued recovery from October’s Sandy-related chaos. For many operators, Restaurant Week provides an initial opportunity to begin rebooting their businesses.
That sense of urgency is further heightened by the fact that Easter — one of the most popular days of the year for dining out — falls early this year, on Sunday, March 31. So in essence, the catalyst to Atlantic City’s tourist season — at least where restaurants are concerned — begins during Atlantic City Restaurant Week, slated this year for March 3-9.
For complete info, particularly for restaurant business hours, we encourage you to check out Web site acrestaurantweek.com, provided by the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Bureau.
This year’s list of recommendations begins with lunch at Margate’s Bocca.
Opened last fall, we’ve been extremely pleased during multiple visits with all aspects of this enterprise. Try a starter of coal-fired Thai chile wings, then big plates like ricotta ravioli in sirloin/short rib Bolognese sauce or a black and blue certified Angus beef burger topped with gorgonzola candied walnut slaw on a brioche bun.
A couple more worthy spots are a few miles to the north, Girasole at the base of the Ocean Club Condos, and Harry’s Bar and Grill at Bally’s (both in Atlantic City). Each presents a superb daytime locale. Girasole’s bright room elevated just above bustling Pacific Avenue and Harry’s gazing from one of the Boardwalk’s coolest spots, the elegant Dennis Hotel Courtyard.
For sheer variety, Girasole’s bill of fare stands out. Choose from almost a dozen appetizers like pasta fagioli, calamari baked in tomato sauce, or a trio each of carpaccios and pizzas. Ten entrees include beef braciola, fritto misto or a choice of multiple pastas. We especially like the sound of rigatoni Girasole, a take on classic amatriciana, with pancetta, onions, pecorino, fresh grape tomato and chiles or bow-tie pasta with smoked salmon, light tomato sauce and a touch of cream.
Harry’s is strategically positioned just a few hundred yards away from the beach and ocean. Sample a trio of oysters, clam chowder or house salad and then move on to a traditional Jersey shore favorite, the chicken salad and fried oyster platter. Other options include an arugula salad with grilled salmon or an excellent pulled pork sandwich with onion straws, slaw and fries.
Two other fine A.C. lunching spots are mainstays the Knife and Fork and Atlantic City Bar & Grill. At the former, a midday meal will only be served once — Friday, March 8. There is something very magical about dining here during daylight. Shafts of sun break through the lounge’s antique glass windows, reminding one of Atlantic City long ago. Food does that heritage justice, soups like corn-and-crab chowder or Tuscan three-bean soup, or salad featuring shrimp, bacon, gorgonzola, onion and house steak sauce. Large plates offer a shrimp-chorizo jambalaya, sliced filet mignon with arugula, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and citrus vinaigrette or spice-rubbed salmon sided by roasted corn salsa and tomatillo relish.
At A.C. Bar & Grill, start with either lobster bisque or Maryland crab soup and then sample a most unusual combination, their signature fish wrap. It features grilled sea bass, sauteed spinach, red onions and tomatoes in chipotle sauce served with sweet potato fries.
Down Pacific Avenue, Showboat’s Crossroads at the House of Blues — conceptualized by Nuevo Latino guru and Food Network talking head, Aaron Sanchez — looks to have a great menu. Start with HOB salad, field greens, grape tomatoes, crumbled feta and pecans, at lunch or dinner. Evening entrees of chipotle-glazed citrus chicken and creamed-corn succotash, southern shrimp-and-grits or chili braised short ribs paired with andouille corn pudding reiterate the restaurant’s culinary point of view. One of our favorite regional desserts, their sticky toffee pudding, is available lunch and dinner.
At Revel’s Central Michel Richard, commence your “dejeuner” (midday meal) at this bistro with French onion soup, mixed green salad or an authentic Parisian specialty, bacon and onion tart. Move on to lemony chicken schnitzel, mussels in white wine and garlic or the egg-battered-and-grilled sandwich, Croque Madame. At dinner, apps like mussel chowder, iceberg and bleu cheese salad or mushroom pearl risotto are exceptional. Main courses include pecan-crusted salmon, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts, hangar steak au poivre with onion carbonara and rotisserie chicken accompanied by roasted potatoes. And do not miss Michel’s chocolate bar dessert.
Evening casino opportunities are highlighted by a chance to check out A.C.’s newest and already one of its most accomplished steak houses, Robert’s at the Taj Mahal. Sleek and urbane, the New York City transplant opened last autumn to rave reviews and chef Will Savarese’s cuisine is seriously polished. Their Restaurant Week menu, brief at only six items, remains thoughtful. Apps are a chilled spring pea soup with lobster salmon sausage or young spinach ricotta ravioli in citrus brown butter and toasted walnuts. Entrees offer herb and caper crusted salmon, braised endive, fingerling potatoes, spinach and sauce verjus or dry aged N.Y. strip with rosti potato and Robert’s signature sauce. Desserts, spectacular on two earlier visits, are chocolate pudding with vanilla bean whipped cream and chocolate tuile or a vanilla bean panna cotta with roasted pineapple carpaccio and raspberry tuile.
At Borgata’s Izakaya, one of A.C.’s most theatrical venues, Michael Schulson’s charges will present starters chicken robatayaki, with sage and spicy mustard, a ginger-dressed Japanese green salad with carrot and radish, pork buns, lettuce, spicy sauce and pickled cucumber or a spicy tuna cracker with scallion, jalapeno and nori. Main courses like sweet crispy shrimp, glazed Atlantic salmon, Peking duck breast with hoisin caramel, scallion and pickled cucumber or a sushi roll sampler — crispy lobster, dragon, crab California, shrimp tempura, salmon avocado — all demonstrate the broad, multifaceted skill sets of this eatery’s diverse stations.
Sage restaurant in Ventnor is one of Absecon Island’s best BYOBs, where chef/owner Lisa Savage channels a creative Restaurant Week lineup. Begin with crispy fried artichoke hearts, tempura oysters on seaweed salad, garlic shrimp and chorizo or the Sage Salad (spring mix, feta, pignoli nuts, balsamic vinaigrette) Entrees include jumbo pan-seared scallops atop sautéed Brussels sprout shavings and shitake mushrooms in an apple cider reduction with truffled potato croquettes, half a roasted duck in sun-dried cherry sauce with chive mashed potatoes or maple-glazed pork chop, red cabbage and apple agrodolce plus cheddar mashed potatoes.
We can’t think of many areas more affected by Sandy than the Amherst Avenue strip of restaurants and nightclubs in Margate. Check out Sofia for upscale Greek fare, a bit of an anomaly locally. Dinner features genuine ethnic specialties like spanakopita, made of spinach, leek and feta pie baked in phyllo; filet Athena, braised beef medallions with mushrooms and caramelized onions, fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts; yiouvetsi, braised lamb shank with orzo, spinach, lamb demi, char-grilled fillet of bream sided by rice pilafi, horta greens and “latholemono” (aromatics); or seafood plaki, Chilean sea bass, jumbo shrimp, kalamata olives, feta cheese, potatoes, baked in ouzo tomato sauce in a terracotta pot.
There are so many other exciting options, but we’ll use our remaining space to acknowledge some individual dishes that caught our eye.
Atlantic City Country Club, Northfield — A winter red-wine poached pear salad on spring greens with caramelized red onion and popcorn shoots, followed by miso-crusted grouper, Napa cabbage, snow peas in a sesame ginger reduction and crispy won ton fries
Amada, Revel. Datiles can almendras, bacon wrapped dates with almonds and la peral cheese.
Arturo’s, Bally's. Entrees swordfish “Spada” marechiaro, shellfish infused tomato broth, clams and Sardinian cous cous and risotto all’arrogosta- traditional risotto with lobster and fresh tomato.
Assaggio, Galloway Township. An app of pan-seared scallops with speck (smoked proscuitto) over greens with orange and fig marmalade.
Dos Caminos, Harrah’s. Worth visiting for desserts alone; warm chocolate torta, tres leches cake with tropical fruit ceviche or a chocolate covered pretzel flan with salted cajeta caramel
Fin, Tropicana. Entrées lobster-stuffed, Faroe Island salmon in sherry cream or 28-day aged 8 ounce filet with onion crisps, red wine demi.
Luke Palladino, Northfield. Entrées lamb ribs, frutta di mostarda glaze, Maytag bleu cheese crema, or red wine braised beef cheeks, horseradish gremolata, N.J. stone ground polenta and Tuscan kale puree.
Mia, Caesars. Entrees orecchiette lobster Bolognese, spinach and ricotta cheese agnolottis, grilled New York strip with melted Robiolo cheese and green peppercorn sauce.
Smithville Inn, Smithville. Starters of pork belly flatbread with apples, red onion, smoked gouda and a bbq drizzle or spicy crab tacos.
ABOVE: Mussel Bar at Revel.
(In Atlantic City unless otherwise noted. See our Food & Drink Guide for addresses and contact information.)
6ix a Bistro, Ballys
800 Bay by Philippe, Somers Point
American Cut Steakhouse, Revel
Assaggio Restaurant, Galloway Township
Atlantic City Bar and Grill
Atlantic City Country Club Tap Room & Grill, Northfield
Atlantic Grill, Caesars
A Touch of Italy, EHT
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The success of 2013’s Atlantic City Restaurant Week was made apparent to this writer during its first few hours.
Since Atlantic City Restaurant Week started, it has been such a success, some restaurants decide to extend the event beyond the scheduled final day, which this year is Saturday, March 9. This year, 25 restaurants have announced extending the Restaurant Week fixed price three-course menu.
Atlantic City Restaurant Week afforded me the opportunity to make a return visit to the AC Country Club, for lunch at the elegant Tap Room Bar and Grill along with my culinary cohort Sally. Restaurant Week features three course lunches for $15.13 plus beverages, tax and tip and dinners for $33.13.
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