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People who come to the Borgata don't just want to gamble.
They want a full-blown resort with nightlife, art, culture
and cutting-edge kitchens.
By Carole Kotkin
Does your wish list for a vacation include luxury hotels, great restaurants with outstanding wine lists, upscale boutiques, extravagant nightlife, restorative spas, and state-of-the-art gambling? Then you should be planning a trip to Atlantic City.
Forget your preconceptions. There's a new game in town with the opening of the elegant $1.1 billion Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City that rivals Vegas in glitz, games, luxury accommodations and gourmet cuisine. For Miami gamblers who don't want to make the trek to Las Vegas, they can get their gambling fix much closer to home.
The Borgata is the first new casino to open in Atlantic City in 13 years (the last was the Trump Taj Mahal) and at 43 stories, the largest hotel and tallest building in New Jersey. Joint venture owners Boyd Gaming Corporation and MGM Mirage are betting that adapting Las Vegas' entertainment/hotel/casino/spa model with East Coast cool will shake off Atlantic City's day-trip image. Plans for expansion are underway at the present time.
The Borgata (the Italian word for "village") gleams with sparkling glass and Dale Chihuly chandeliers and sculptures, acres of marble floors and artistic fountains. Its trend-setting restaurants, 1,000-seat theater, indoor pool ringed by palm trees and hot tubs, cutting-edge bars and $100 "Borgata Glow" facials have lured a decades-younger and more affluent clientele to Atlantic City.
The sheer size of this luxury property with 2,002 guest rooms and suites on 17 acres, a 50,000 square foot spa and a 125,000 square foot casino with 145 gaming tables and 3,650 slot machines is noteworthy. Between rolls of dice you can take in big name entertainers like Britney Spears, Paul Anka, Bill Cosby or The Allman Brothers Band. CEO Bob Boughner says, "We're bringing a new level of sophistication and amenities that Atlantic City has never seen before."
Broughner, who sketched his idea for the casino about eight years ago, is committed to being the voice of the customers and their advocate. He sat in every style of chair; oversaw the design of the public rest rooms, tested the bath towels, and slept on 29 different mattresses before making his selection.
Betting on great dining is a sure thing
People who come to the Borgata don't just want to gamble. They want a full-blown resort with nightlife, art, culture and cutting-edge kitchens. Menus are laden with lobster, crab, smoked salmon, foie gras, truffles, Kobe beef, morels, pounds of caviar and just about every other luxury food item you can imagine. Presentations are appropriately exquisite.
Executive Chef Ron Ross, formerly of Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi and Victor Tiffany, Vice President of Food & Beverage, previously with W Hotels, have taken fine dining to a new level at the Borgata.
There are eleven restaurants at the Borgata, running the gamut from gourmet five-star dining to easy informal meals. You can buy a $41 melt-in-your-mouth Kobe beef hamburger or a $19 Kobe beef hot dog at Old Homestead. But, despite the emphasis on opulence, a $2.50 hot dog is available at the poolside bar. Ten-ounce burgers at Borgata's Gypsy Bar sell for $7.50 and a grilled-cheese sandwich is available for $7 at The Metropolitan, Borgata's 24-hour café, oyster bar and gelato bar.
You can visit the 586-seat Borgata Buffet where $25 buys you sliced prime rib, oysters on the half shell and desserts out the kazoo. Borgata's dining scene features Philadelphia's Susanna Foo, who spearheads Suilan, a restaurant showcasing her style of Chinese cuisine, while
Executive chef Edwyn Ferrari and co-developing chef Aaron Sanchez, charm crowds with Asian-Latin flavors at Mixx. Greg and Marc Sherry, the third generation of the family that has operated Old Homestead steak house in New York City since 1868, were persuaded to open a new location-their second in 138 years-inside Borgata.
Executive pastry chef Thaddeus DuBois (now the new pastry chef at the White House) was in nirvana in his modern bakery, stacking desserts to the heavens, making creamy gelatos, and challenging gravity with spun-sugar fantasies, delicious bite-sized pastries like white chocolate and mango Neapolitans, mango crème brûlée, and Jersey peach crostatas with amaretto gelato.
Luke Palladino is the Borgata's star chef. His culinary talent is behind Italian focused high-end Specchio, the casual trattoria-style Ombra and the even-more-casual Risi Bisi. Ombra's selection of 40 international cheeses, artisan breads and meats can be purchased to eat in or out. Specchio, which translates as "mirror" in Italian features refined, rustic cookery from all the regions of Italy along with a 15,000-bottle wine collection.
After having devoted years of his career to working in the finest restaurants in Italy and the United States mastering regional Italian cuisine, Palladino has found a welcoming home at The Borgata. Menu selections include Grilled Fish with Four Sauces; Lamb Chops with Rainier Cherry and Apple Mostarda; and Warm Bread Salad of Corn, Lovage and Chicory from Borgata Farms.
The farm is located in Buena, New Jersey. This 100-year old Formisano family farm supplies a consistent supply of the finest quality, freshest produce to Borgata's restaurants. "The produce you eat in my restaurants will have gone from the field to the table the same day," exclaims Palladino. The real winner here is the customer who cares about food.
Carole Kotkin is the co-author MMMMiami-Tempting Tropical Tastes for Home Cooks Everywhere, food editor Wine News Magazine and Miami Herald columnist.