Gigantic portions, impressive variety and cool 24-hour vibe at new Sammy D’s.
ATLANTIC CITY — Sam DeMarco, chef of Harrah’s new 24-hour eatery Sammy D’s, doesn’t seem to want anyone leaving his restaurant hungry.
Judging from the sheer volume of food his high-energy concept churned out during a recent visit, no one ever will.
Start with this, the room itself is equally huge, with space for over four hundred.
It stretches to include a bar and lounge, several separate dining sections and a really happening-looking lunch counter on the farthest wall.
Arcing around the exterior of Harrah’s Pool complex, Sammy D’s fits perfectly with the overall motif of casual relaxation.
The menu, like everything else here, is bigger than life.
With separate lists for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and late night, variety rules.
We began with two chef’s signature apps, recommended by our server.
Philly cheesesteak dumplings were five outsized (surprise) half-moons of neatly folded Chinese-style pastry. Their exteriors were just a bit browned, from the heat of a sauté pan, and darned inviting.
Once opened an alluring mix of beef and provolone cheese appeared. We loved the restraint shown too. Excessive cheese would have resulted in a gooey, sticky mess. Instead, the dumpling itself, firmly constructed yet tender, stood out.
Plated atop kicky sriracha ketchup and tiny rounds of hot pepper, this is a starter worth hanging your toque on.
Our other choice, lollipop Buffalo wings, brought a baker’s dozen chicken drums.
The twist here is that the top of the bone was cleaned — “Frenched” were these lamb chops — providing a neat, facile little handle with which to pop off the spicy meat.
Call it Buffalo wings for dummies, this technique alleviates the inherent messiness of that latter-day American obsession.
Another of the chef’s faves — denoted on the menu by his amusing caricature — chicken parm a la Mama DeMarco, arrived on a plate the size of a small wheelbarrow.
OK, so we exaggerate a bit.
But not much.
The pounded cutlet of poultry was indeed the size of a catcher’s mitt, but one helluva lot more tender.
In fact, cutting into the firm, white meat, we couldn’t help but marvel at the attention to detail given this fairly typical Ital-Amer item.
As an aside, one Italian dude to another, if you’re gonna name a dish after your momma it better be this good. Or else you’re in trouble when you get home.
Uniformly flat, the meat had been well handled so that the flesh was never torn. The breast, layered with cheese, was supple enough to eliminate the need for a knife.
A nice turban of linguine and two thick slices of garlic bread completed the entrée.
My choice, bistro standard steak frites, brought a nicely butchered cut of beef, marbled but devoid of any extraneous fat.
Thin-cut fries, made in house judging from their irregular shapes and sizes, were crisp and piled high. Covered with what the menu described as an aioli — essentially Mediterranean garlic mayo — the blend ate more like a light cheese sauce.
From a separate list of seven items under the label “Sammy’s Wok Shop” we selected vegetable lo mein as one side dish. The abundant portion of springy noodles, julienned carrots, peppers and mushrooms was tasty and healthful, but would have benefited from the addition of bit more brown sauce.
Our other option, pretzel-crusted mac and cheese, was just superb. Crunchy atop, its inner folds contained perfectly chewy pasta swimming in divine béchamel. Those pretzels added more than just texture; their salt helped balance the natural dairy sweetness.
Which brings us to dessert. Here, there are two options, “Big Cakes” or “Little Pies.”
Chef Sammy DeMarco is working the room — in this case his Harrah’s Resort eatery Sammy D’s — like the Energizer Bunny. The chef has plenty on his plate, including a new TV show on the Travel Channel, Chow Masters, and the unveiling of new menu items at Sammy D’s.
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