Before the days of Simon Prime and Bobby Flay Steak, the casinos in Atlantic City each had their own steakhouse – and one that was usually thematically tied to the casino itself. The names could be rather tacky at times, but it was all part of the fun of going to the casinos, right?
Then came Borgata, and everything changed.
Casino steakhouses now have to be much more distinct. And, they need to have a known quantity of a celeb chef. For those old-style casino steakhouses that are still around, they seem out-of-date and out-of-touch with what’s hip and happening. And when you hear the name Nero’s Grill, one could forgive you snickering a bit at such a hokey name as that. Not to mention the fact that Caesars had added Morton’s in recent years and gave it a prominent location in front of the casino. So what’s a place like Nero’s Grill to do?
Well, they seem to have a pretty good idea: create dishes at a high level and use 100% sustainable ingredients.
We were extended an invitation to attend a special Farmer’s Dinner at Nero’s Grill, a dinner that promised to showcase their new menu as well as this commitment. And as fate would have it, babysitting would not be available to us – so after long hours of deliberation, it was decided that Lisa would take the kids elsewhere on the boardwalk to eat. Before you feel sorry for her, though, you will see in a future post that things would work out just fine for her in the end. And now, enough with the backstory and let’s get on with the dinner…
Care for an hors d’oeuvre? Or several? A number of well-crafted bites of fun were passed around to the appreciative audience. And while we could appreciate the skill of the kitchen with each item, it was also very cool to find out that the quail with the pomegranate glaze was from New Jersey, the seared foie gras with the sour cherry bread pudding was from Sullivan County in New York, and the oysters with the pink grapefruit caviar were from Long Island.
The company that is providing Nero’s Grill with the local and sustainable food is River & Glen. Based in Pennsylvania, River & Glen works with smaller farms and fisheries that are using sustainable methods and connects them with restaurants. In speaking with a representative from River & Glen during the pauses when we were not in mid-bite, you could get a sense of the level of passion and commitment they have.
On to the dinner…
Seared Cape May scallops with local corn and a basil foam. The scallops were pristine, and the sweet Jersey corn, with a jalapeno touch, was a playful compliment.
Steak with mushrooms and a veal glace. Nothing adventurous here, but the organic steak from New York was just so tender and cooked to my liking. Comfort food dressed in a tuxedo.
Can you walu? This Hawaiian fish was certainly a topic of discussion around the table. Served in a Portuguese-style broth with clams, tomatoes and chorizo, it was a delicious combination. But look at that piece of fish – it was huge! The texture was very firm – I exclaimed ‘It tastes like chicken!’ when sampling it, immediately getting some playful scorn from those around me. But the mouth feel was more like chicken than fish.
Of course there would be dessert! Triple cream tiramisu? Very good. Warm chocolate cake with melted chocolate center? Luxurious. But the winner of the bunch? The apple cider cheesecake. Oh my.
If Nero’s Grill can deliver on a day-to-day basis the level of quality we received at this dinner, it will be a wonderful dining experience for those who choose to worry less about the name over the door and more about the food on their plate. And in looking over the new regular menu, the prices are in line with what you would expect for an upscale casino restaurant (i.e. expect to pay a little more than a comparable place not in a casino). But – in comparison with the casino steakhouses with the fancy celeb chefs, Nero’s Grill won’t drain your bank account as quickly. Kudos to Chef Keith Mitchell, and I hope they stick with the plan.