Dining Above Rolling the Dice

There are more than 10 places to dine inside the behemoth-sized hotel on the Atlantic Ocean — The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The choices, cuisine and tab fit every desire, wallet and hunger pang. I’ve reviewed Council Oak Steaks & Seafood over 5 years ago and it was such a great experience, I had to return and see if the place is still operating at the same high caliber. My expectations were surpassed.

Council Oak is popular with tourists, locals and regional folk from the tri-state area. The place is hopping on the weekends so I prefer to go when it’s less busy — a Monday. This is further proof that they know what they are doing offering memorable and inventive cuisine and gracious hospitality.

While the waves lap up on shore just a few feet away, the interior décor is attractive and relaxing with blonde wood and soft lighting that reflects off their impressive wall of wine on display. The ceiling light fixtures are modern, classic but also give a nod to old-world AC and the turn of the century period. They shine just bright enough for everyone to be able to read the menu.

Their specialty appetizers include: Crosscut-Short Ribs, Roasted Burrata, Wagyu Meatballs and Wood Fired Octopus. I chose the latter by recommendation. Some picky people cringe at the thought octopus, but I am telling you, this dish was off the charts tender, savory and delicious. I always recommend to keep an open mind and inquisitive palate.

The restaurant offers A5 Japanese Wagya Beef, but that is too steep for my pockets. They also offer lobster from Maine and Long-Bone Ribeye for Two. I chose their Filet Mignon. It was delivered to my table exactly at the temperature that I requested. Mea culpa to all vegans, but a good steak is a good steak. They do offer other options for those who have dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Some people don’t like to dine alone. I am used to it. It doesn’t bother me as I travel solo, but I usually prefer to sit at a bar so I can talk with the bartender and other patrons. This didn’t happen and I was seated at a table for four. The manager of the restaurant approached me to make sure that I was comfortable and enjoying myself. I was. We struck up a conversation. While I live in New York City for almost 40 years, she and I discovered that we are from the same region. I was born and raised in Scranton, PA and she is from our neighboring town called Old Forge — the pizza capital of the U.S. Her name is Nicole and she runs the restaurant like a great captain of a ship. Her hospitality is on point.

My second choice is the Asian inspired restaurant call YouYu. I’ve traveled to China, Hong Kong, Japan and even the eastern immigrant hub of Flushing, New York. I’ve tasted authentic Asian cuisine. YouYu at The Hard Rock Hotel is equally excellent and memorable.

Like stepping into Chinese history, the interior is reflective of the Ming dynasty with its crimson Metasequoia wood fixtures and decorative mural on the wall. The dining room is bustling every night and it reminded me of a restaurant in the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, China.

The Sichuan Pork and Vegetable dumplings, also known as gyoza, are served steamed, but I am sure they will fry them if you request it. On their menu, it’s in the sharable section but you only get five dumplings so I presume a couple will have to negotiate over the last one.

My go-to Asian dish is always General Tso’s Chicken. My colleague and I at The Wall Street Journal ordered it every Sunday for lunch. YouYu’s interpretation of this popular dish with breaded chicken and broccoli conjured up my memories of working in the Twin Towers. It’s tasty and the portion is generous. Don’t over-indulge because you need to save room for their Pistachio Cheese Cake dessert.

Visit the dining section at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino AC

Read about Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City in our travel section.

Photo credits: PK Greenfield and Tony Caliendo.