When you are at a resort, the goal is to relax, admire the view, and escape the rest of the world for a while. And at any resort that’s worth its salt, you will also be able to enjoy well-prepared meals that will most likely be, let’s face it, rather pricey. It’s what we would expect.
Revel in Atlantic City, the new (and very big) kid on the sandy, planked block, is all about changing perceptions. It bills itself, first and foremost, as a resort – a resort that also has gaming if you so choose. The sheer size and architechture of the structure is thrilling all on its own. The views of the ocean are everywhere, giving your eyes and your brain an opportunity to admire the natural beauty and let go of everything else. And yes – you will certainly be able to enjoy a well-prepared meal created by one of a number of talented chefs that have been brought to Atlantic City. The hope is that your dining experience at Revel will be truly inspiring.
But here’s the unexpected part: a number of the restaurants at Revel will not require you to spend your life’s savings to pay for your meal. This concept is not only good news to those eager to try the new offerings, it is revolutionary for the dining scene at the casinos in Atlantic City.
Vive la Revel-ution!
In 2003, Borgata changed the culinary scene in Atlantic City drastically, bringing in big name celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay. The rest of the casinos had to catch up, and eventually they did. Now comes Revel, which has its own impressive collection of well-known chefs. People in the Philadelphia area (and now all around the country) know who Jose Garces is, and fellow Iron Chef Marc Forgione certainly raised his profile when he joined the show on Food Network. James Beard award-winner Michel Richard and Robert Wiedmaier have made quite a name for themselves in the Washington DC area. And Alain Allegretti has been forging his own trail in the always-exciting New York City restaurant scene.
With the collection of chefs that Revel has assembled, you could expect a sense of elitism. And yet, there is an air about these chefs and their restaurants that is inviting, fun, with even a bit of whimsy mixed in for good measure. They could exude arrogance, and yet they do not.
Not going to be held ‘food hostage’
When you talk to Chef Robert Wiedmaier, you cannot help but get infected with his enthusiasm for food and beer. Raised in Germany and Belgium and culinarily trained in the Netherlands and Brussels before coming to the US, Chef Robert’s Mussel Bar is a love letter to all things Belgian. With over 150 Belgian-style beers available, including his own signature house beer brewed in Belgium, Mussel Bar will give to Atlantic City what Philadelphia enjoys with Monk’s Café.
But Chef Robert makes it clear: you can come to his Mussel Bar and have an amazing high-end meal and spend a few hundred bucks, OR, you can keep it simple with a plate of mussels and some great Belgian beer and spend much, much less. As Chef Robert puts it, he does not want people to be held ‘food hostage’ – that is, where the menu prices are too prohibitive and exclusionary. Knowing that it will be the locals that will be frequenting his place in the offseason, he wants diners to feel included and welcome.
For something even more casual, you can go across the hall to Chef Jose Garces’ Distrito Cantina and grab something served from the Guapos Taco Truck (and it is an actual food truck parked inside) and be able to cover the cost with the cash in your wallet.
Sophisticated whimsy with an ocean view.
If the notion of having a food truck parked inside Revel gave you a chuckle, the humor does not end there. At Chef Jose’s flagship Amada, which will be opening soon, you can enjoy one of the specialty cocktails named after Pedro Almoldovar films (sadly, there isn’t one named after Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). The entrance to Chef Michel Richard’s Central restaurant has two pillars that look like sloppily-stacked piles of dishes. The ceiling of Mussel Bar has rafters lined with bottles of his beer as well as a motorcycle hanging down from it. And when Chef Marc Forgione’s American Cut opens its doors, get ready to experience a concept known as a meat bar. Your guess is as good as mine as to what that is, but it sounds far from your usual steakhouse fare.
The thing about revolutions is that they are risky – a gamble (pardon the pun) if you will. There’s a lot riding on the success of Revel, and so far the public response has been very positive. The culinary talent they have under their massive roof is nothing short of top-notch. If Revel does not succeed, we may never see a gathering of this sort again. Come Memorial Day weekend, when all operations at Revel are open, we will see if this revolution will change the hearts and minds of the dining public.
John and Lisa Howard-Fusco Regional Editors, Ocean County. Although they and their two kids call Ocean County home, their John and Lisa Are Eating in South Jersey food blog has them traveling all over the southern region of New Jersey. They and their blog have been mentioned in articles by the New York Times, Courier-Post, nj.com and njmonthly.com. Lisa has written articles and reviews for South Jersey magazine as well as for Ed Hitzel’s Restaurant Newsletter and Hitzel’s Restaurant Magazine. And John could use a Gaetano’s cheesesteak right about now.