Nobu at Caesars Atlantic City ups the dining stakes; ‘Jersey Shore’ Pauly D to Borgata; Pitbull at Hard Rock

The Japanese-Peruvian fusion outpost is a rare example of a highly touted eatery outpacing the hype.
Nobu at Caesars Atlantic City
Nobu at Caesars Atlantic CityChuck Darrow

The surprises offered by Nobu, the ultra-high-end-and-high-profile restaurant that opened last fall inside Caesars Atlantic City, begin the second you enter the main dining room: Given it’s pedigree as a favorite of the rich (and filthy rich) and famous from Manhattan to Las Vegas, Marrakech to Manila, one would expect to find an ornate and ostentatious space that  screams wealth and privilege.

But the 183-capacity (including bar and auxiliary rooms) eatery located on Caesars’ second level--on the site of what that used to be a players’ lounge-–looks and feels far more like the kind of upscale Asian-focused chain restaurant you might find at a suburban mall than a super-posh retreat for the glitterati. That’s thanks to its shades-of-red-and-off-white color scheme that tints its array of booths and tables, the open kitchen that sits behind a long sushi bar and unpretentious, Asian-style ceiling light fixtures.

As such, the first-time visitor may be moved to wonder what, exactly, is the big deal about the globally acclaimed restaurant empire founded by uber-chef  Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, film producer Mier Teper and Hollywood immortal Robert De Niro.

But as it turns out, this low-key visual approach makes perfect sense: Nobu is truly about the food; an over-the-top environment would only pull attention away from it.

“In my opinion, at the end of the day, you're experiencing culinary art,” said Nicholas LoGuidice, general manager of the Nobu outpost at Casears. “You're also experiencing what Chef Nobu has put together throughout his career. Not just the Japanese food, but Japanese food with a Peruvian twist, a South American twist.

“So you're going to get those citrus flavors, you're going to get that cilantro. You're going to get something that most Japanese restaurants are not offering.”

That may sound like typical hyperbole, but here’s another surprise: The use of the word “art” when describing a restaurant’s offerings is, in this case, fully justified. As someone who has been dining at casino eateries in Atlantic City and across the country for more than four decades, I can confirm the veracity of LoGuidice’s assertion: While Atlantic City has long offered some of the best dining on the East Coast, I have never encountered flavors like Nobu’s.

The more than a dozen dishes (including desserts) my dining companion and I sampled during a recent visit comprised a kaleidoscope of flavors that were bold and subtle, sweet and tangy, familiar (but with a twist) and on the whole, unique. Virtually every dish defied preconceived notions. Add to that dazzling presentation, a knowledgeable and personable staff (try to get one of Aubrey‘s tables) and impeccable service (at one point, a few drops of errant soy sauce were wiped away literally seconds after they hit the table), and it’s clear Nobu at Caesars takes seriously its corporate mission statement, which reads:

“Our mission is to provide every guest with a Nobu-style experience, focused on quality ingredients, exceptional service and inspired cuisine, in order to go above and beyond our guests’ expectations, and continually offer an element of the unexpected.”

So, what are the “must-have” items on the small-plate-focused menu? Chef Wendi Velazquez, who oversees the kitchen, which utilizes local and non-regional food sources, named New Style Sashimi (salmon or whitefish), Umami Seabass and Lamb Chops with Rosemary Miso as her “go-to” items (for those looking to go off-menu, she added Wagyu steak on a hot stone to the list). Of the dishes I sampled, the most memorable were the Tataki New Style Steak Toban Yaki (an absolutely perfect piece of beef that defines “melt-in-your-mouth”), King Crab Tempura and Squid Pasta in Garlic Sauce.

It’s only fair to note that not every dish hit it out of the park: The Rock Shrimp Tempura was also a surprise, but because  it was unexpectedly generic in both taste and presentation—the flaw in the gem, as it were.

And lest you think beverages are an afterthought at Nobu, be advised the drink menu is a 14-page booklet highlighted by a selection of a dozen types of sake, nine of which are exclusively made for Nobu by the  Hokusetsu brand (the Junmai Jinjo 71 was superb). There are also a number of specialty cocktails and beers.

Of course, dining at this impossibly high level doesn’t come cheap. Even by high-end, casino-restaurant standards, Nobu is pricey; it may very well be the most expensive dining spot in AyCee casino history. But for those with the means (or player rating) Nobu is an absolute must.

And as for everyone else, GM LoGuidice makes no apologies.

“At the end of the day, we give the highest quality ingredients when it comes to the food and the best toppings that you can get. It’s about the food. And great service.

“The price point can be a little high for some people, but that's what you're paying for.”

New address for Pauly D.

The new year has brought a new AyCee home for Pauly DelVecchio, better known as Pauly D., one of the stars of the inexplicably enduring Jersey Shore MTV franchise.

Beginning Jan. 21, the part-time DJ (and full-time party animal) will take his track-mixing talents from The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Casino Resort to Premiere Nightclub inside Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

“Yo, I got huge news Atlantic City, I'm officially announcing my all new 2023, 2024 residency at Borgata,” said DelVecchio, announcing the move on his social media accounts. “I love Atlantic City this time of year!”

For tickets, click here.

Pitbull spins into Hard Rock

Speaking of big-time DJs, tickets for disco icon Pitbull are now on sale for his March 10 and 11 engagement at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Admission is $199-$99.

For tickets, click here.

Rivers feels the ‘Pulse’

A new spin on in-person gambling in Pennsylvania has been introduced at Rivers Casino Philadelphia.

The riverside gaming hall is home to the state’s first Pulse Arena, which is a 42-seat electronic gambling space set up in “stadium” fashion. The idea behind the concept is to combine the speed and technology of electronic gaming with the community vibe of traditional casino table games.

In the Pulse Arena, guests place wagers via play stations while a live dealer conducts the table games. Outcomes are determined by using real dice, cards and roulette wheels, not by computers, which adds the element of traditional casino gaming.

Currently, roulette is the only game offered in the Rivers Pulse Arena, but it will eventually be joined by blackjack, craps and baccarat. The visual centerpiece of the Arena is a 585-square-foot video wall with lighting and sound systems that can be programmed based on Rivers’ daily events and atmosphere.

While the Rivers Arena is the first one in the Keystone State, it isn’t alone in the region: There are already similar setups in Atlantic City at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

“We’re excited to be ‘first in market’ with the Pulse Arena technology and to provide Philly gamers with this thrilling new experience,” said Justin Moore, Rivers’ general manager. “This dynamic addition is part of our ongoing commitment to reinvesting in our gaming floor and keeping it fresh.”

A million for one

Talk about a nice way to start the new year:

On Jan. 8, Philadelphian Bin Weng won $1 million at The Return, the biggest game of a recent multi-tournament event at Borgata.

Weng, whose victory made him 2023’s first $1 million poker champ, topped a field of 1,142 entrants, each of whom anted up $5,300. The total prize pool exceeded $5.5 million.

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