Nor does Wiedmaier care much for those licensing deals in which a hotel casino runs a restaurant branded with a celebrity chef’s name and outfitted with a celebrity chef’s menu; Wiedmaier’s not the type to cede control of any eatery with his name on it and content himself with regular revenue-sharing checks.
All of which leads quite organically to the following statement: Robert Wiedmaier has opened a restaurant in Atlantic City’s shiniest new playground, the $2.4 billion Revel. Don’t dare call it a casino. It’s a resort. But in some ways, Revel is more like a generous, deep-pocketed landlord to the chefs, partners and investors who decided to open 11 (and counting) restaurants in the towering new project.
Case in point: According to Wiedmaier, Revel ponied up a good 75 percent of the $7 million it cost to build out his elaborate Mussel Bar, just off the 130,000-square-foot high-tech casino floor, with its built-in burlesque show. Revel had its reasons for the capital outlay: Its executives wanted to attract some of the finest kitchen talent found in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, in the hopes that those chefs would in turn attract their big-city regulars to that infamous boardwalk — the one so bleakly depicted in Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” (“Down on the boardwalk they’re getting ready for a fight . . . ”).
While Wiedmaier may not be a celebrity on the level of Jose Garces and Marc Forgione, a pair of media-savvy Iron Chefs who also have restaurants at Revel, he’s a bankable name in the Washington market, where he owns and operates five restaurants, including Marcel’s, his elegant, high-end exercise in French-Flemish cooking, which topped the local Zagat ratings for food in 2011. The guy has more than Old World cooking chops; he has the ability to translate those chops into an approachable, affordable experience like the Mussel Bar.
Those expecting a replica of Wiedmaier’s Mussel Bar in Bethesda will be in for a surprise. The Atlantic City version is a Mussel Bar on steroids. It’s essentially a mash-up of Mussel Bar and his Brasserie Beck, with a more expansive menu (including a 52-ounce porterhouse for $110!), a wine list that exceeds 250 bottles, a live music stage and a lengthy bar whose focal point may not be the wall of beers behind the counter but the Harley-Davidson chopper that hangs over it. The bike is Wiedmaier’s.
“He has a couple more Harleys, and this is the most uncomfortable,” says Ramon Narvaez, food and beverage director for the Mussel Bar.
If there’s any theme to the restaurants at Revel, it’s this: Like some philosophical exercise in how context changes an object, Revel seems to alter the nature of the eateries and the chefs invited to the oceanfront spot. The Mussel Bar is different, yes, but so is the still-unopened Central Michel Richard, the third in the Washington chef’s budding chain of casual American-influenced bistros. (The Revel version is scheduled to open around Wednesday.)