A.C. Restaurant Week: Digging In With Knife and Fork

John and I really needed a real date. Someplace where the pace was leisurely, the food was the star of the show, and I could ditch my “Hello-I-Am-A-Mother” uniform (jeans and a spit-up stained sweater) in favor of my favorite high-heeled laced boots. Atlantic City’s Restaurant Week allowed us to afford that elegant night out in these troubled times, and we were determined to try something new and non-casino-related. Well, old really. Okay, then: new to us.

The first thing you notice about the Knife & Fork Inn is the distinguished “Flemish-style”exterior. Knowing that the building was established in 1912 as an exclusive men’s club, I expected dust, mahogany millwork with tin ceilings galore, and to see the ghosts of privileged gentlemen with cigars and glasses of port. Well, the mahogany and tin ceilings were there, and perhaps a few ghosts still lurked, but this was no longer a stodgy club. Here, old Atlantic City blends wonderfully with the new: faded historical photographs of A.C. line the old-fashioned bar with updated tiling and flat-screen TVs; stylish modern dishware grace the tables near the colored glass, patterned windows in the dining room. The overall effect is a kind of quirky sophistication.

But the most impressive thing is the food. Though they certainly could have taken a lot of easy shortcuts on their Restaurant Week menu, the kitchen did not skimp on anything. Really. I expected possibly minuscule portions to fit the quality into the $33.09 per person dinner requirement, or at the very least some sacrifice in quality; but it’s obvious that Chef Michael Newkirk takes too much pride in his food for that. In fact, the special menu contained appetizers and entrees found on that evening’s regular menu. John started with the Roasted French Onion Soup with Gruyere cheese; it was excellent, but after tasting my selection, the Corn and Crab Chowder with Roasted Jalapeno Cream, mine was pronounced “definitely the winner of the two.” Lightly creamy (but not heavy) and richly spiced, the savory/silky broth had me wishing this was a bottomless beverage. It had more essence of crab than actual crab meat, but paired with the crisp corn and perfectly cooked potatoes, and sensing a gentle heat throughout from the jalapeno cream, I wasn’t complaining.

For his entree, John nervously decided to take a chance and choose the Pan-Seared Salmon. In too many places (even upscale eateries), the salmon is often overcooked, dry and crumbly; he has long settled on getting a fix of his favorite fish in sushi form. Not this time. The kitchen showed off its skill in presenting a moist, perfectly cooked fillet of salmon served over black lentils with a cider reduction and mascarpone cream. All I could say when he gave me a bite was “yum!”. The lentils were tender but al dente, and had traces of Indian-themed spice without the heat. His only complaint? “I wish there was more mascarpone cream.” I ordered the Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Shrimp-Chorizo Jambalaya, and I was asked if I wanted it cooked medium or well-done. My grandmother would have risen from her grave to slap me upside the head (“you’ll get the worms!”), but I decided to try it medium; I figured that if it is offered this way, the chef must be confident in the quality of the meat. Bingo. When it arrived, it was juicy and delicious, with the texture of a seared tuna steak. The honey sauce looked as if it might be a cloyingly sweet barbecue concoction, but it was smooth, blending well with the pork with only a hint of sweetness. As good as this was, I don’t think it the dish would have been truly great without the accompanying jambalaya. Whole, plump shrimp and chorizo that reminded me of my trip to Spain were mixed into a lightly spiced rice with the consistency of a risotto; and though it contained one of my least favorite vegetables, okra (it’s just so darned slimy!), I have to admit I didn’t pick it out (they must have some secret for toning down the mucilage).

After cleaning our plates, dessert was served: the cutest little tartlets you ever did see. The cheesecake was creamy, and not too sweet, with a surprise crunchy walnut crust instead of the usual graham cracker crumbs; the lemon pie was creamy and tart, which was balanced out by the sweet graham cracker crust and blueberry compote on top; and the peanut butter mousse cup was, in John’s words, “a sophisticated Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup”-which was not a bad thing. We were offered a choice of cappuccino, coffee or tea, and since I’m still coughing from that damned virus I had 3 weeks ago, I was thrilled to discover they had an extensive selection of teas and herbal teas. And the service? Impeccable, from the hostess, to the bartender, to the waiter. Always on hand, knowledgeable, but not hovering.

Knife & Fork also takes pride in their 10,000 bottle wine “cellar” (it’s located on the third floor) which they invite you to take a peek at while you wait for your table. The staff are well-schooled, and our waiter was able to recommend a glass of Wingnut Zinfandel (California) which complimented my meal wonderfully (an avid home brewer and “beer snob”, I am still learning my way around wine).

Unlike most restaurants, the Knife & Fork Inn is serving their Restaurant Week menu all week (including Saturday night!). We seriously recommend trying to get a reservation this weekend if you can. -Lisa

The Knife & Fork Inn – Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, Atlantic City. 609-344-1133.

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2 thoughts on “A.C. Restaurant Week: Digging In With Knife and Fork

  1. I just showed this to hubby and said lets go here, it looks and sounds great! When it warms up we head down south more…see you two in a few weeks!

  2. this is our favorite restaurant in Atlantic City… if you ever make it back you have to try the Lobster Thermidor (an old dish made new again). It is to die for!! Also, their sister restaurant is Dock's Oyster House (across the main street from Trump Plaza) and it is as good as Knife and Fork. They have the corn chowder there too! Glad you enjoyed it!!

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