High Steaks at Scarduzio's in Atlantic City
Over the summer, Showboat added another steakhouse to their dining roster, Scarduzio's. This comes as no surprise, as Atlantic City is flooded with them. This one piqued my interest because of its name. If you're not familiar, you may recognize these names: the former Philly spot Brasserie Perrier (of Georges Perrier fame), Mia (in Caesar's, also connected with George Perrier), and Table 31 (in Philly's Comcast Center). Chef Chris Scarduzio has been involved with all of them, and all have enjoyed a stellar reputation.
An abundant selection of quality sake, good wine and craft beer (Abita Turbodog Brown Ale or Flying Fish XPA anyone?) met us on the drink list, so it seemed safe to try out some experimental cocktails. I ordered the Cucumber Green Tea Martini (Tanqueray Ten, green tea, muddled cucumber, and fresh ginger), and was extremely happy with my choice: it was clean, potent, and refreshing.
Along with drinks, we decided to indulge in sushi before dinner to satisfy the “surf-and-turf” craving. Most offerings consisted of crowd-pleasers like tempura shrimp roll, California roll, and spicy tuna roll; all were fresh and tasty, but not very original. Next time, I might sit at the tiny, separate sushi bar hiding in the back of the restaurant, and request "omakase" to get a better feel for the raw fish options.
The best steakhouses keep it simple, and that was the philosophy reflected in the other appetizers we ordered. Our selection of small plates brought things like miniature forks impaling fresh figs and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar (basic but perfect); Kobe sliders (delicious but done to death); and tender, medium-rare filet mignon-on-a-stick.
These samplings were good, but it was time for great. Grilled diver sea scallops arrived, huge, tender, and perfectly underdone, but it was the accompanying yellow-tomato gazpacho that rocked our world. It was gorgeous – fresh Jersey tomatoes, basil, garlic and an excellent olive oil. We reveled in toothy, homemade cavatelli ins sharp, rich tomato marinara.
We moved to the dining area for the main event. Crispy Branzino was served with spicy shellfish risotto, broccoli rabe, vermouth butter, and fresh fennel shavings. The huge, 16-oz Delmonico was not served on a sizzling platter (which makes it horribly overcooked by the time it gets to your table). Instead, the deliciously tender piece of beef was served over a red pepper puree and topped with a pat of herb butter. Family-style sides included crisp Jersey corn fricassee, bittersweet broccoli rabe and ethereal whipped Yukon Gold potatoes.
Surprisingly, though, I have to recommend dessert at your own risk. We found the array offered by Pastry Chef Deborah Pellegrino (winner of the most recent Food Network Challenge) dry and unimpressive. Let's face it, a steakhouse is a steakhouse. But Scarduzio’s, while not perfect, works hard at delivering one of the best meat-and-potatoes experiences in Atlantic City.