Food, Wine, Song…And Our AC Restaurant Week Picks

Photo Credit:  Atlantic City Bar Association

Last night, John and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Atlantic City Restaurant Week kickoff party. In all honesty, if it was to be the same press-only,Caesar’s-property-restaurants-only event of the past, I don’t think there would be much to write about. This year, however, someone put on their thinking cap and not only decided to open it up to the public and invite other area restaurants to participate, it also raised funds for local charities.

Held at the historic Atlantic City Country Club (you can check out my adventure there back in the Fall here), this time they went all out with a jazz trio that added an additional air of elegant fun to the whole shebang. Though it promised to be a night of indulgence, it was good to know that organizations such as The Alcove (a center for grieving children and their families), CASA (Court Approved Special Advocates, for abused and neglected children), and our favorite, The Community Food Bank of New Jersey were going to benefit. We were also happy to discover that a few of our fellow blogger friends (Colleen from Jersey Bites and Holly from Random Cravings ) were there. After a quick greeting, we all went into food blogger special-ops mode: commandeering a home base, scoping out the lay of the land, taking photos, and securing samples of dishes we knew might be the first to run out (we had a serious job to do, after all).

Although we sampled almost all of the restaurants represented, there were so many that we’ll stick with the ones that intrigued us enough to say that they might be worth checking out for a full meal next week:

  • Il Mulino (at the Trump Taj), a New York-based Italian that has a large following, was serving up melt-in-your-mouth meatballs. I have great respect for these meatballs, since they were made what I consider the right way: with the holy trinity of beef, pork, and veal. The gravy was too thin for my taste, but these meaty gems were so delicious on their own, they’re worth a rave mention here.
  • The hosting AC Country Club surprised us with a Korean-themed offering: Asian-Braised Pork Belly, with kimchi cucumber salad on a Peking bun. Although braised to a tender finish, the belly tasted of Asian barbecue , and the kimchi salad added a really nice kick; dipped in the accompanying hoisin sauce, it was heaven-on-a-bun.
  • Resorts  chimed in with a Tempura Shrimp glazed with a Szechuan-style garlic sauce. It hit all the right notes with intense heat, vinegar, garlic and a touch of sweet that left the tongue ravaged,  abused, and exhausted but still yearning for more, all the same.
  • But the best thing there? The herb-encrusted, pan-seared lamb chop from Sofia’s in Margate. I can’t actually guarantee that Sofia’s would be a sure-fire bet, but based on the heavenly perfection of this chop alone, I’m ready to go check this place out. It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that I missed out on the accompanying  pomegranate thyme demi-glace, but who the hell cared? The tender little lollipops of love were done to medium-rare perfection, with a crust that reminded me of the simple breaded chicken cutlets my grandma used to make (only with a little extra ooomph). We went back for seconds, for thirds….
  • As for the desserts, the biggest surprise was to find that  Showboat has stepped up its game in the pastry department. We were amazed by the array of creative “comfort food dinner” sweets that could only be tasted to be believed. The “fried chicken, biscuit, and cole slaw” was actually a gorgeous, rich, and ridiculously moist yellow cake coated in a thick (and bumpy) maple icing, with shredded pear, apple and strawberries masquerading as the “slaw”; but similar to an observation once made by Freud, sometimes a biscuit is just a biscuit…However,  it was the “burger and fries” that really blew us away. The rich, chocolatey brownie “meat” sat on a challah slider bun, topped with a candied orange peel “pepper”, while the pound cake “fries” were coated in a heavenly sweet curry glaze. When I say “curry”, I mean a real curry, not just a cinnamon/cardamom-chai flavor. It was not only different, but amazingly delicious. There was also a creamy chocolate and wafer “taco” that was outstanding. The demure little  “purses” coated in sugar confetti concealed a crazy-rich chocolate torte that was to die for. Yow.

From our past Restaurant Week adventures, we can attest to great experiences at the Knife and Fork Inn, Girasole, Sage (in Ventnor), and Izakaya (at the Borgata-but skip dessert here). Though our recommendations include places found outside the casinos, we really urge you to check them out-it’s worth going off the beaten path.

So, where are we going this year? That’s classified information, for now; you’ll just have to wait until next week.


12 thoughts on “Food, Wine, Song…And Our AC Restaurant Week Picks

  1. hmmmm where to go? where to go? this is such a tough choice! there are so many to choose from.
    Do you guys know which restaurants are kid friendly? my guys are 10 & 12

    1. With an 8 and 2 year-old, we feel your pain! Well, I did forget to mention the smoky, tender-perfect ribs we had from Pistol Pete’s (Pleasantville) that night, they look family-oriented. Girasole was quite casual, as well. We had no trouble at Buddakhan on a Sunday afternoon (that included a cranky 6-month old at the time), they were very accomodating. Carmine’s is family-oriented and noisy (only been to the NYC location years ago, it was good). Philips Seafood seems kid-friendly too.I would check with Sofia’s-it may be upscale, but most Italian places welcome kids regardless. Hope that helps!

  2. Thank you Lisa!
    my husband mentioned Philips. They have a kids menu and my boys love the dancing fountains (and candy store -lol) in that mall.
    I worry about the food being too “chain-like”.

  3. Actually, though it’s a chain, it’s a small chain, and we’ve had good experiences at Phillips.It’s not breaking any culinary boundries, but the seafood is screaming fresh (the crabcakes are really good) and even the sides, like the gratinee potatoes or broccolini (though I think they offer what’s in season), had some love and thought put into them. And if they have the “mojito clams”- get ’em! They even try to source from sustainable suppliers, which is good.

  4. Great article. The only “problem” with AC Restaurant Week is there are too many GREAT places to go in seven days; they should (seriously) make it an entire month. The Grill Room at AC Country Club is one of the best rooms on the planet – especially if you plan to tee it up before or after your meal. Glad to see you guys mentioned Luke Palladino’s (Northfield) in the Friday column, as he is hosting his own restaurant week, and the food is phenomenal. To your list of recos, I’d add Dock’s Oyster House (same owners as Knife & Fork) in AC, and Steve & Cookie’s in Margate. Hearing good things about OSHI at Showboat; will likely try Sofia’s based on your reco above.

  5. Steve: No kidding – you need a lot more time to sample more places. Funny you should mention Luke Palladino’s and Steve & Cookie’s; they’re on our List (our ever-expanding list).

  6. You are concentrating on South Jersey. But you seem to talk about the shore area. How about the Trenton, Princeton, Hamilton Twp, Hightstown Area?

    1. Jeff – Thanks for your comment. For our blog, we concentrate on Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Ocean and Salem counties. The areas you are talking about are in Mercer County, which tends to get lumped into that mythical land known as Central Jersey. I call it mythical because there are many of us who don’t believe that Central Jersey exists – but that’s a debate for another time. Covering these eight counties alone keeps us pretty busy, but when we do get a chance to venture elsewhere we will post about it (De Lorenzo’s, for example).

      We tend to talk more about shore area places (Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean) due to the fact that we live close to the shore. We do frequent the other counties, some more than others.

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