The Culinary King in AC

I met Gordon Ramsay many years ago while he was opening a restaurant in New York City. I wasn’t a fan of his bravado or ego. He behaved exactly as portrayed on his TV show — intense and a bit churlish. I had worked in hospitality for several years and was very good at my job; I didn’t understand his barking and aggression. I recently visited his Hells Kitchen (HK) in New Jersey. I’ve changed my mind. I was wrong. He needs to be tough as Satan’s nails in this business. He knows what he is doing to run a kitchen and empire with great success. Here is my experience and what you can expect when visiting this alleged diabolical den.

Descending the staircase into Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Atlantic City is how I imagine entering a gastronomical Hades. I anticipated a lot of clamoring and gnashing of teeth. It’s nothing like that at all. Inside the dining room are several plush, marine blue banquettes with starburst light fixtures above that are accented with pitchfork hardware. The visible kitchen is ablaze with activity and a coordinated dance of the staff with dishes, condiments, cocktails, and serving trays in the air — all neatly presented with grace and zero pretension. The dinner rush hour is on point, like choreography for foodies.

You have the option of selecting from the a la carte menu, however, I recommend the HK signature prix fixe. The pan-seared scallops are served with celery root, bacon lardons, and Granny Smith apples. The flavors and textures blend perfectly with just a touch of heat; I would give it a 3 on a scale of 10 for being the spiciest. If you don’t like scallops, you have other options. Like perhaps the HK lobster risotto.

HK offers just about everything by the glass or bottle from every grape that ever fermented. This includes Emmolo from Napa Valley or Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain. The latter was my choice with its hints of cherry, woodsy spice, and tobacco. Your server is informed and will help you make a choice.

The invention of Beef Wellington is still a battle between the English, French, and Irish. It became popular in America in the 1950s and ’60s, thanks to Julia Child. The first time that I’ve ever tasted it was at the historic and popular restaurant One If By Land, Two If By Sea in Greenwich Village. Gordon Ramsay has risen to the occasion with this dish. It’s not an easy task to serve filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry and presented at your specific temperature—always medium rare with an emphasis on rare. Bravo to his kitchen and crew.

Every Food Network watcher who enjoys desserts knows about the popular Sticky Toffee Pudding. I typically don’t have a sweet tooth but I indulged this evening. It’s remarkable. The portion is large enough to share but I was alone and ended up devouring the entire confection.

While Hell’s Kitchen is a bit formal, if you want to just grab lunch or pub fare for dinner, I recommend you pop into Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill. It’s a casual and comfy space that has an outdoor feel due to the size of its location near the main reception. A towering statue of the emperor looms over the pub. This oddly reminds me of an ancient coliseum combined with retro, red telephone booths that once graced the streets of Great Britain.

The lunch menu is everything you would expect in a pub, offering everything from sandwiches and salads to french fries and fish & chips. I ordered the Pub Burger, simply to treat myself as I rarely eat them. This mouth-watering American invention was perfectly grilled with prime sirloin and stacked with lettuce, tomato, English cheddar cheese, bacon, pickle on a brioche bun.

This pub and grill is like a gentleman’s handshake between American casual dining and British know-how. You will notice the unified enjoyment on the faces of the guests at the bar, tables and booths.

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Photo Credits: P. K. Greenfield