A New Triple Threat from José Garces at Atlantic City’s Tropicana

Note: Jersey Bites was invited to visit Olón and our writer received a complimentary meal.

Fans of Chef Jose Garces are heading to Tropicana Atlantic City for three new restaurant offerings from the celebrity restaurateur. The James Beard award winner is back in town two and a half years after his popular Amada, Village Whisky and Guapos Taco closed at the now-shuttered Revel Casino.

Chef Jose Garces

“My team and I have worked hard at creating all-new restaurant options unlike any of our other restaurants,” says Chef Garces. “Each of the three restaurants has a unique look and feel that transports guests to either a Japanese streetscape, seafront coastal town, [or] beachside beer bar.”

Diners at Olón enjoy fresh seafood with a Latin flair and gorgeous ocean views. Both the cuisine and the dining room’s beach-like cabana seating are inspired by the coastal town of Olón, Ecuador. Grab a seat at the 43-seat ceviche bar and lounge, or head to the inviting outdoor deck for warm weather dining overlooking the beach and boardwalk.

Our friendly and knowledgeable waiter, Jimmy, started us off with warm pan de bono paired with a sweet and spicy guava and sriracha butter. Like much of the menu, the luscious cheese bread reflects Garces’ Ecuadorian roots; it’s “something that my mom and my grandmother always made for me. I would wake up with that aroma.”

Small plates are the stars at Olón. The paella ceviche (Mexican blue shrimp, bay scallops, mussels and crispy chorizo in a saffron emulsion) is only one of the many ceviches, tiraditos (Peruvian sliced seafood) and raw bar specialties.

The tapas menu is made for sharing. We sampled the black mussels with yellow pepper butter, bacon and lemongrass—truly the most tender and delicious mussels you will ever enjoy. The crispy, cheesy spinach and swiss chard empanadas are another Garces signature item. Peruvian-style anticuchos (skewers) include swordfish with adobo and sweet potato; chicken with purple potato and quail egg; and pork belly glazed with yuzo (a tangerine-like Japanese citrus fruit).

Both a Wagyu skirt steak–sliced to share and simply garnished with sea salt—and a whole branzino were wood-grilled and accompanied with a spicy ancho chili sauce. Garces’ nod to the Jersey Shore includes classic crab cakes, jumbo fried shrimp, and surf and turf.

Okatshe is Chef Garces’ take on a traditional izakaya—an informal Japanese gastropub. The Iron Chef transports visitors to the streets of Tokyo; don’t miss the small Japanese candy (okashi) storefront as you enter the restaurant.

Okatshe offers a selection of yakitori (skewers), ramen, maki, sushi and sashimi and a curated selection of Japanese whiskeys, sakes, beers, and specialty cocktails. We shared a tasty Okatshe roll, a delicious maki with lobster tempura, asparagus, eel, and avocado salsa.

Okatshe Skewers – photo by Tom Briglia
Okatshe Skewers – photo by Tom Briglia

Between the two restaurants is Bar Olón, a 60-seat bar and lounge. The light food menu features ceviche and shareable small plates as well as a selection of sandwiches. Try the pork sandwich with roasted onions, cilantro mayo and jalapeño, or the wagyu steak sandwich with chipotle ketchup, peppers, and onions.

Olón is open seven days a week with a lunch menu starting at 11:30 a.m. and dinner 5 to 11 p.m., midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. For reservations call 800-345-8767.

Bar Olon is open from 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily.

Okatshe is open from 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. seven days a week. Reservations are not required.

2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City

Pictured at top: Olón Prawn Antichucho (tomato, crispy chorizo, scallion) – photo by Martin Buday