It seems all the fish in the sea have landed at Fin—even a mermaid. In a bit of Tropicana Casino corn at the door, a dark-haired woman in a mermaid costume welcomes diners in an Eastern European accent. I bet she’s from the Baltic Sea.
Despite groaners like a dish named Dancing Shrimp and the presence on the menu of Chilean sea bass (which is overfished; the restaurant says it buys only “environmentally responsible product”), Fin has the best food of the Tropicana’s 23 eateries. And, with its accents of wavy sea glass and booths that curve like nautilus shells, it has the best decor. It’s also the first casino restaurant I’ve seen to emphasize local ingredients, among them Cape May scallops and Point Pleasant flounder.
“[Tropicana] started out talking about doing seafood, and it evolved into a restaurant to showcase Jersey seafood, Jersey produce, Jersey wines,” says chef Demetrios Haronis, who grew up 30 miles down the Parkway in Wildwood. “Whatever you want, someone in Jersey is doing it. We have some of the best in the world.”
Examples include tender littleneck clams from Egg Harbor. They’re steamed in a fragrant broth of heirloom garlic, plum tomatoes, spicy bits of andouille, and white wine. Pan-seared chicken hails from Griggstown Quail Farm in Princeton. You won’t hold it against Haronis that the side of caramelized white beech, oyster, shiitake, cremini, and royal trumpet mushrooms (not so caramelized, it turned out) come from Kennett Square, roughly half an hour outside Philly.
Because Fin is a casino restaurant, one that seats 150 plus an additional twenty on a slim terrace that floats above the Boardwalk, exceptions must be made. So there are Florida stone crab claws, Canadian oysters, and Maine lobster (all impeccably fresh on the raw bar menu.) Regardless of where the seafood comes from, the kitchen handles it with respect. Swordfish, halibut, flounder, calamari, and more arrived properly cooked. Shrimp were perfect in three different (enjoyable) preparations: chilled in a classic cocktail; grilled, layered with Manchego and chorizo, and baked in puff pastry with smoky roasted red-pepper coulis; and butterflied, encrusted with panko crumbs and crumbled Vidalia onion straws, and fried (the Dancing Shrimp).
Some dishes were overwrought. Scallops are too delicate to go toe to toe with a combination of grits, white cheddar, bacon, avocado, black-truffle butter, and black-truffle salt. Tender calamari came with two curiously unrelated sauces (tangy chili-tamarind and thick Cajun-spiced remoulade) when one would do. The Dancing Shrimp would have been better without the accompanying blue-crab-and-lobster cake, an over-browned blob bound with a distracting amount of mustard and mayo. The lobster roll loses the integrity of its concept when supplemented with blue crab, chopped plum tomato, avocado, and red onion.
I prefer when Haronis keeps it simple, as in swordfish marinated in extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, served with grilled zucchini, eggplant, and artichokes. It was a light, lovely rendition of the taverna food of the Haronis family’s native Greece. Pan-seared Point Pleasant flounder came with wilted local spinach and a drizzle of Meyer-lemon beurre blanc. Simple food this delicious makes the $40 halibut in truffled lobster cream seem like overpriced overkill. Lobster bisque, on the other hand, is among the best I’ve had.
A circular sushi bar anchors Fin’s interior. The chefs there know their stuff. The sushi platter included excellent king salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and shrimp, plus a California roll classed up with Alaskan king crab (instead of crab stick) and toasted almonds.
Pastry chef Terry Wargo’s desserts run from generic crowd-pleasers (crème brûlée, chocolate Jubilee cake) to more interesting options such as a bananas-Foster split and cloud-like cheesecake dressed with sweet-and-tart Meyer-lemon curd. The kid in me can’t help but love the foamy root beer float made with Stewart’s soda. It would be fun to share with a mermaid.Click here to leave a comment
- Cuisine Type:American - Seafood
- Price Range:Expensive