The name comes from the anatomy of a fish, of course, and this establishment does seafood the right way.
ATLANTIC CITY — Everyone knows about Atlantic City’s fabled beach, Boardwalk and towering casinos. But, hidden to many, there is another Atlantic City, just as full of adventure and life. Tucked away in the northernmost outposts of Absecon Island one finds the Inlet district and Gardner’s Basin.
The area has become regentrified over the last decade or so, with posh townhouses replacing what had become dilapidated urban squalor. It also remains a vital outpost of the coastal Jersey seafood industry, given its close proximity to the waters of both the back bays and Atlantic Ocean.
On the warm weekend night we visited Scales Grill & Deck Bar, those connections couldn’t have been any more abundantly clear. Throughout our twilight meal, fishing vessels returning from what was undoubtedly a lengthy day at sea, regularly chugged by the waterfront facility’s spacious grounds.
Scales’ bill of fare reflects that locale, with an extensive array of aquatic specialties.
Returning to that setting for a moment, allow us to paint a picture for you. Imagine sitting quayside, nestled just inside a quiet, inland waterway. Docks for those aforementioned commercial boats extend to your left. To your right, that lazy passage leading out into open-ocean waters.
Straight ahead, looming across the island, the spectacular lights of Harrah’s Resort, the Borgata/Water Club and Golden Nugget all sparkle in the still distance. There is literally no place quite like it in Atlantic City.
And, for us at least, there is nothing quite so appealing as dining al fresco — with the soft, late-summer air whispering to enjoy it while still possible. For the record, Scales also offers extensive indoor seating for those so inclined, and year-round use.
Our first taste from the kitchen was a dining companion’s tuna mango timbale. Plated atop a gingery seaweed salad, the blend of fish and fruit proved to be luscious. The addition of a Creole remoulade and cilantro made for a creamy, mildly spicy experience. We liked the thinking here, pairing global flavors in the same way that South American cuisine is influenced by its Pacific Rim visitors.
The chunky tuna was fresh enough that we’re guessing it was an a la minute creation, French kitchen speak for made-to-order. Either way this generous portion would have easily made for a fine midday meal as well.
Next up were a quirky house specialty we simply couldn’t resist; a trio of deviled eggs. Not an item you’re likely to see elsewhere, the eggs were crab stuffed, Old Bay and shrimp varieties. Each ovum served as a perfect, firm culinary vessel for the delivery of its contents. Our favorite, which surprised us, was the Old Bay. Its qualities mirrored those of similar deviled eggs we grew up eating at every summer backyard barbeque.
Seared filet grinders were a merciful re-do on what we consider to be the decade’s single most over-utilized menu item; sliders. These little bites of prime steak, seared nicely to mid-rare, were served atop toast points with plenty of caramelized onions. A garlic butter dipping sauce allows diners to custom-craft each tasting.
Memorial Day weekend may have the claim to being the start of the summer season in our region, but when it comes to full-scale partying, beach blasts and fun in the sun, nothing beats the July 4 holiday weekend.
“This isn’t your typical bar in the true bar sense, but if you want to take a little break from the tables and get a drink and a bite to eat instead of a full meal, this is the way to go. This is my kind of place.”
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