With his brash Atlantic City steakhouse, Marc Forgione honors his trailblazing dad while carving a bigger name for himself.
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With American Cut—his audacious steakhouse at Atlantic City’s Revel Resort—Marc Forgione perfectly meshes his famous father’s culinary legacy with his own Iron Chef showmanship. It’s a winning combination—even if you’ll need a winning night in the casino to avert sticker shock. Still, the menu is built for sharing, and one of the finest meals you can experience here can be shared start to finish.
Begin with the Steak Knife Wedge Salad ($13). Iceberg wedges are a steakhouse standard, but Forgione goes beyond, sending out an attention-getting half head of iceberg sporting a knife buried to the hilt. The head shows a sheen of vinaigrette, strips of bacon balance on top. Gently remove the blade, cut a slice and discover the gratifying payoff—interstitial fillings of crumbled Maytag blue cheese and torn strips of meaty bacon from Sonoma County’s Black Pig Meat Co. This bacon appears on the menu in six places, either on its own or within a dish, but only the wedge salad adequately showcases its distinctive smokiness.
Spotlighting the sources of fine provisions is common on menus now, but it wasn’t when Forgione’s father, Larry, made a point of it at An American Place, the influential restaurant he opened in New York in 1983. Forgione père made his mark as a kind of East Coast Alice Waters, helping American cooking rediscover and reinvent itself. (In 1980 he started a poultry farm, hatching the term “free-range.”) Food writer John Mariani dubbed him the Godfather of American Cuisine. The sobriquet stuck.
Your $135 shared entrée, the Tomahawk Ribeye Chop, a richly marbled, 28-day-dry-aged steak for two, is named for its hatchet handle of a bone, from which nearly one and a half pounds of prime beef (the only prime on the menu) is sliced just before serving. The gratifying crunch of the dark, salty char—most of the steaks and chops are finished over a wood fire—gives way to deep flavor and tenderness.
Do pair it with a pot of über-indulgent Potato Purée “Robuchon” ($10). A signature of chef Joël Robuchon, whose restaurants have been awarded a record total of 28 Michelin stars, it calls for a two-to-one ratio of potato to butter. At American Cut, your server stirs in one more generous pat of butter, as if the purée weren’t already as much sauce as side. It literally drips from the spoon. And know what? Too much ain’t enough.
You may detect a theme here.
Consider the shrimp cocktail. Usually cocktail sauce is served on the side. American Cut’s hulking Florida crustaceans come drenched in cocktail sauce fiery with horseradish. No gentle dunking here. Every dish is a workout.
Hiramasa has been called the king of yellowtail sushi. If you order the $18 hiramasa tartare appetizer, and you should, it comes with a big Szechuan peppercorn on the side. Your server will suggest you first roll the “button,” as the menu calls it, around your mouth until your tastebuds totally tingle—setting the stage for the soothing relief of the minced fish and avocado that follows. Another worthy workout is Chili Lobster. It’s a $27 starter, but you get a roughly 1.75-pound cull (meaning one claw) sautéed in a buttery-thick, sriracha-and-ginger-spiked sauce that begs to be mopped up with the accompanying wedges of buttery Texas Toast from New York’s Tomcat Bakery.
À la carte sides, inescapable in steakhouse dining, drive up the cost. At least Forgione’s are appropriately brash. Among the six kinds of spuds are Brass Knuckle Potatoes, made with aged cheddar and pork roll, and the terrific, parmesan-stuffed, truffle-perfumed Twice Baked. Notable veggies include beer-battered onion rings and something called Carrot Glazed Carrot. It’s one big boss carrot, braised in carrot juice and orange juice. It’s rooty, sweet, meaty and surprisingly minty. A vegetarian could make a meal of it.
If you watch the Food Network, you may remember Forgione as the cheeky dude with the mohawk who won Next Iron Chef in 2010. He didn’t come out of nowhere. He grew up under his father’s wing at An American Place. After earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management, Forgione worked in New York for several exacting chefs, including his father, and eventually became sous chef of Laurent Tourondel’s BLT Steak. To polish his skills, he took off for France, working low-profile jobs in high-profile kitchens, including that of Michel Guerard. Returning to New York, he helped Tourondel expand his BLT empire. In New York’s TriBeCa in 2008, he opened his first restaurant, giving it his nickname, Forge. But after a Miami Beach restaurant of that name threatened to sue, he changed it to Marc Forgione.
The 33-year-old chef usually works weekdays at Marc Forgione. Fridays and Saturdays his spiky silhouette can be seen presiding over the open kitchen at American Cut. Comparing my visits, a couple things slipped when he wasn’t on hand. Steaks weren’t as deeply charred, a definite minus. And the Caesar salad, which adheres to hotelier Caesar Cardini’s original 1924 recipe, and is served tableside if ordered for two, was overchopped and overdressed to the point of sogginess.
Signature cocktails consistently fall short. The most notable thing about these syrupy concoctions is their names (like Purple Haze or Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik), which at least go with the pulsing rock and roll soundtrack.
American Cut’s name seems to tip its hat to An American Place, but an explicit salute is right on the menu. Dad’s Planked Salmon, one of just three seafood entrées, is cooked on a cedar plank, from which it absorbs smoky flavor, and is served under a lemon-parsley beurre blanc thoroughly studded with bits of finely chopped hard-boiled egg. It was delicious, and so was the moist, tender halibut en croute with a caper, raisin and brown butter sauce, proving Forgione can do delicate as well as brutal.
If you can part with another $12 (Oh, go ahead!), you can’t go wrong sharing one of pastry chef Mallory Staley’s satisfying desserts. Some are amusing riffs on childhood: the Chocolate Snack Pack (chocolate pudding, chocolate-covered pretzels and espresso cream) or Banana Split Ice Cream Cones. The ultimate may be the Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse. Its thin brownie base supports a layer of peanut butter mixed with Rice Krispies and chocolate, topped by peanut butter mousse sprinkled with toasted peanuts. Salted caramel ice cream comes on the side. Combine all these elements on your fork and you have a super-sophisticated Snickers.
ATLANTIC CITY, 08401
FOOD: Steak and seafood AMBIANCE: Power scene, rockstar glint SERVICE: Enthusiastic, skilled WINE LIST: Good choice of champagnes by the glass; nice selection of malbecs under $50; rest of the list, $50 and up (off-menu banana-infused Jameson’s makes an ideal nightcap)