Last April, when Gordon Ramsay first visited the new Caesars Atlantic City restaurant bearing his name, his signature temper flared just once. Seeing a fry cook slice a Scotch egg that was obviously undercooked inside, the irascible chef with 7 Michelin stars and four hit TV shows did not mince words. “That’s raw,” Ramsay snapped. “I hope you’re not planning to serve it!”
La Tasha McCutchen, one of the two on-site chefs in charge of the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, witnessed the incident and told me about it in a phone interview after my visits. The reprimanded cook discarded the flawed delicacy and started over. During my visits, I had ordered the Scotch egg, a classic working-class snack in every English pub. The one I ate was rich and delicious: bright gold yolk within a firm white, each half-orb cradled in garlicky ground pork sausage under crisp panko bread crumbs. Served with cider-braised red cabbage and extra-sharp English mustard, the Scotch egg rose well above its humble origins. McCutchen told me it’s her favorite item on the menu.
“I think I love it so much because it was a dish I’d never really tasted before—I’d never cooked English-style pub food,” the South Carolina native explained. Prior to winning Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen Season 13—and with it the chef’s job at the Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars, one of Ramsay’s 26 current restaurants from Las Vegas to Hong Kong—McCutchen was a lead line cook and kitchen supervisor at Marriott hotels in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.
Ramsay’s pub in the Caesars space long occupied by restaurant Mia is patterned on his highly successful Pub & Grill at Caesars in Las Vegas. Here, as there, beef Wellington is a big seller. McCutchen said her kitchen puts out more than 1,000 orders a month. Making it involves searing a 7-ounce slice of prime filet mignon on all sides, letting it rest a day, brushing it with mustard to hold a finely chopped duxelles of shiitake, crimini, portobello and oyster mushrooms. The mushroom-covered meat is wrapped in prosciutto, encased in puff pastry and baked.
The Wellington I was served was masterful, worth its $47 price tag. Each bite combined tender beef with rich pastry, salty ham, earthy mushroom and a tease of mustard, all enhanced by a sweet and tangy port-wine sauce. Brilliant.
Wherever you look on the menu, you are never far from beef, chops, meat pies and potatoes. The steak-and-ale pot pie was harshly salty, but the $17 Ramsay burger successfully set off its 8-ounce patty with a lively and luscious avocado-jalapeño topping, further enhanced by maple-pepper bacon, a worthwhile $2 addition. Bangers and mash went successfully new wave, combining three kinds of sausage in small links (Irish, chicken-beer and knockwurst) with mashed potatoes heavily enriched with cheddar. Crispy Amish chicken was not crispy, but the confited thigh meat included with the breast hit the apogee of poultry plushness.
Like Mia before it, Ramsay’s pub occupies an elevated, Roman-columned space in the Caesars casino/hotel lobby. New seating areas outside the Roman columns expand the capacity from 100 to 280 seats. On busy nights, the restaurant serves 800 or more customers. In July, Meghan Gill, winner of Hell’s Kitchen Season 14, joined McCutchen as co-head chef under Caesars Atlantic City executive chef Keith Mitchell.
Atmosphere varies wildly. Score an armchair-equipped table inside the columned area, and you can imagine yourself in a posh English pub. If you’re seated on the “patio” (a fenced-in set of high-tops in the lobby), the steady trickle of people coming and going from the casino or the Boardwalk is distracting.
The Boardwalk, and the sea beyond it, is brought to mind by the lobster roll. The meat, tossed in a Meyer-lemon aioli and sprinkled with lemon zest and chives, comes on a split-top potato bun brushed with rosemary butter. At $20, the appetizer isn’t cheap, but like the Wellington it delivers top quality. The hearty $16 chopped salad—loaded with shrimp, chickpeas, and chunks of chicken, salami and apple—is better than the iceberg wedge, drowned under bacon-vinaigrette in addition to blue cheese dressing. Fish and chips ($31) comes out flaky and crunchy, accompanied by thick rods of Yukon Gold fries dusted with malt-vinegar powder.
For dessert, the sticky toffee pudding, based on a recipe by Ramsay’s mother, delivers deliciously dense date cake smothered in toffee caramel with vanilla ice cream. It sells even better than the beef Wellington.Photo by Christopher VillanoClick here to leave a comment
Price Details:Appetizers, $5-$20; burgers and sandwiches $15-$19; entrées, $24-$47; desserts. $8-$10.
Ambience:Varies from cozy tavern to boisterous lounge.
Service:After a brusque welcome, professional and capable.
Wine list:$14 by the glass, including six on tap, $10-$20; $30 by the bottle, $38-$160; signature cocktails; 26 taps and more than 30 bottled beers.