The Reserve has honed a fine reputation as Bally’s signature steakhouse over the last two years under the direction of chef Joseph Muldoon.
ATLANTIC CITY — Joseph Muldoon, the 20- something whiz kid chef installed at Bally’s elegant supper club The Reserve just over two years ago, will never be accused of taking his charges lightly.
In fact, during a recent visit, Muldoon displayed an intensity of purpose and game face worthy of a Cold War CIA operative. He authored a sampling menu, both of current Reserve favorites and a couple experimental additions that was thoughtful, articulate and full of drama.
This began with his duo of grilled meats, a bold statement for an opening course. Mine, a lollipop lamb chop, was finished with a ladling of bright green jade pesto. Slightly different from the standard basil-only preparation, this one added a pleasant contrast of cilantro along with tangy ginger. Okinawan mashed sweet potatoes, one of our very favorite items on this night, helped prop up the meaty, mid-rare chop for presentation.
Deep, dark crimson and flavored with honey, this exotic starch — imported from Hawaii — proved well worth the extra trouble.
The other half of our duo was a bacon-crusted venison chop with grilled Swiss chard, cranberry and Pinot Noir reduction. The meat, rich in nature and cut thicker than my lamb, had been seared to a lovely medium, chard, crisp and nut-like in taste, helped by adding a surprising level of textural complexity.
Three basic elements, each brilliantly displayed, formed a lobster and roasted red beet salad with frisee. Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Virtually every restaurant has a beet salad on its bill of fare by now. Not like this one, trust me. The poached crustacean had been just barely cooked, rendering an almost-sashimi feel.
This gentle, knowing approach allowed the sweet, ample meat’s natural oceanic tones to whisper softly. A citrusy crème fraiche dressing added just the lift and heft necessary to compliment the delightfully bitter, crisp frisee. Orange segments and preserved lemon were deployed as acidic garnishes for this stellar salad course.
Another of the evening’s real treats, olive oil and duck fat poached filet mignon, arrived next. Delivered sliced, the meat was fork-tender, rosy pink in hue. Muldoon explained that this cooking technique, taking nearly six hours to accomplish at very low heat was “virtually a sous-vide,” referring to the trendy technique of slowly poaching meat in vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
Sherry-glazed cippolini onions, golden raisins, crushed candied walnuts and veal stock combined to formulate a sweet, lush condiment, meshing well with the yielding filet.
Next, a fish course brought caramelized pear-basted halibut. The cube of flatfish was tilted atop a duck confit and butternut squash risotto.
Roasted yellow oyster mushrooms, fragrant with woodsy thyme, crowned the regal halibut. A simple, direct sauce of pumpkin oil and brown butter added moisture and sheen.
One of those additions, surf and turf, paired broiled buffalo rib eye with head-on fresh Maine shrimp tossed in a blackberry barbeque sauce.
The buffalo, perhaps nature’s most perfect protein, was appropriately served rare.
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Ventnor’s new Salt Ayre restaurant marks a return of sorts for the well established LoBianco restaurant family. The storefront, located at 7309 Ventnor Ave. near the Margate border, was the site of Nick LoBianco’s original entry in the Jersey shore restaurant industry from 2003 until ’06.
As the Atlantic City region’s first, and still only, full-scale brewpub and restaurant, the Tun Tavern has always managed to nicely incorporate those house-made beverages into its bill of fare. Brewmaster Tim Kelly elaborates on this process, saying “I’m generally here as a resource for chefs. I’m an ingredient.”
If you’re a real food fan, ask to sit in the left rear section. Here you’ll be afforded a peek at the kitchen staff, through a screened service portal, as they prepare your meal.
He is Korean by birth and was adopted at age three months by an Irish father and German mother. His mom, a home education teacher, is the one who got him interested in cooking. Mrs. Muldoon, from those of us who enjoyed a fabulous five course meal last night, thank you for inspiring your son to become a chef.
Restaurant Week extends from Sunday through Saturday, March 4-10, and offers a three-course lunch for $15.12 and similar dinner for only $33.12 (many eateries may also extend the promotion beyond those dates.)
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