One of the things I look most forward to in the summer is a weekend (two, if I’m lucky!) getaway at the Jersey shore. There’s something about a place where (a) a bathing suit top and shorts are legitimate hangout garb and (b) ice cream is part of a balanced daily diet that just instantly puts me at ease.
This past weekend, Charlie and I soaked up some sun (after dodging some sneaky raindrops on Saturday–I would not be deterred!); ate a sweet, syrupy stack of Sunday morning pancakes; and were generally beach bums together. And it was glorious. But before commencing Project Laziness, we stopped off in Atlantic City on Friday night for a dressed-up dinner date and some fun at the game tables!
Revel is the newest casino on the Atlantic City strip, so Charlie and I decided to check it out and get the lay of the land. After meandering through the huge pit full of slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette, and so, so much more, we headed to our 8 pm reservations at Amada.
Jose Garces, the chef behind both the Philadelphia and Atlantic City outposts of Amada, is an Iron Chef and James Beard award winner (not a bad pedigree, huh?). At this particular restaurant, he and his staff serve up Spanish-style tapas, small plates, and not-so-small plates (paellas or whole roast suckling pig, anyone?) while diners take in gorgeous ocean views.
If you know anything about me, you know that the months I spent living in Spain were some of the most formative of my life. The language, the people, the flavors, the food–I love it all, and no matter how I might try to pretend to give equal consideration to other cuisines, I will always pick tapas if given the choice.
Charlie and I ordered a pitcher of the sangria blanca to start–the white wine variety is less traditional, maybe, but the lighter, fruitier wine was perfect to start off a weekend of summery, beachy fun. I do wish the pieces of fruit in the sangria had been larger (chowing down on the boozy fruit is one of my favorite parts!), but the apple and orange bits were an excellent complement to the wine all the same.
DID I MENTION THERE WAS LIVE FLAMENCO?! Ahem. I mean…I may or may not have been really excited to discover our table had a front-row view of the small stage where two guitarists, a vocalist, and three flamenco dancers performed during our meal. I attended an authentic flamenco performance in an underground cave during my time abroad, and this took me straight back to the sheer emotional rawness that was so evident that night in Granada.
But really…let’s talk about dinner.
Charlie and I don’t mess around when we do tapas, as I’m sure you can see. We started out with the yellow gazpacho you can see on the top there, which I was surprised to find I liked. I’m only just starting to dabble in cold soups, and the generous lump of good-quality crab meat in the gazpacho, plus the creamy slices of avocado, definitely elevated the flavors for my taste buds.
Next were the patatas bravas Charlie insisted on (middle top), as well as a flatbread of gambas con garbanzos (shrimp with chickpeas; middle bottom). The potatoes weren’t what we were expected–aioli is much more prevalent in traditional patatas bravas, so the emphasis was more on the dish’s crispiness. They were still quite flavorful, although I (the queen of non-spicy food) thought they could have done with more heat. The flatbread was my least favorite dish of the night, actually. It was more reminiscent of a pizza, with the chorizo appearing in a pepperoni form and the garbanzos a bit difficult to find. If I had to do it again, I’d go for the artichoke, wild mushroom, and manchego flatbread!
We followed those with Amada’s empanada (middle bottom), filled with artichoke, spinach, and manchego, and my favorite dish of the night–the albóndigas (lamb meatballs; bottom right corner). Oh. My God. These itty bitty meatballs were falling-apart-in-your-mouth tender and were served in this crazy-rich, drink-it-through-a-straw foie gras sauce. Seriously, do I need to say any more?!
We went with slightly bigger plates for our “entrees”–Charlie chose the pernil asado (roast pork over a white bean and bacon stew; top left corner) and I opted for the merluza (sea bass with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, and artichokes; bottom left corner). My dear dining partner could not stop talking about this pork. I’m fairly certain it bordered on a religious experience for him–the crispy skin, the tender slices of pork, the salty/creamy stew it was served with–there was literally nothing he disliked. My merluza was a delight as well–flaky but with a nicely seared outer skin, really light and satisfying. We paired those with the arroz temporado (wild mushroom rice with peas and manchego; top right corner), which had an almost risotto-like quality to it–I could have swam in a bowl of that stuff.
Dessert (center!) was a chocolate cake paired with a milk chocolate ice cream and hazelnutty spread…and my boyfriend definitely let me have two-thirds of this alleged “split.”
“More pictures of our food?!”
Yes, dear. It’s part of the package. You should be used to it by now.
Atlantic City, NJ 08401