Open daily from 6:15 p.m. to midnight or 1 a.m.
AE, D, MC, V. Reservations.
Prices: Main dishes $8.75 to $13.
It's not only the cards and dice that are a risk in Atlantic City. The odds are against you at the dining tables, too. In Las Vegas gastronomy and gambling may have joined hands, but Atlantic City needs a little time to develop its flavor. In the meantime, here is a small survey of what are said to be three of the best restaurants in the city.
Snap judgment would tell you it has the signs of a losing streak, this French restuarant with floor-to-ceiling red plush and a ruffled magician time-sharing your table with a sequinned photographer. The violins are playing what sounds like melted margarine, as flames shoot from tableside carts. This must be the kind of kitchen where the hand is quicker than the eye, you think, planning a Big Mac or Alka-Seltzer as an aftermath.
But wait. Beneath that candy box exterior lives a foie gras soul.
The service at Le Palais is a little clumsy, but no more so than the dealing at the blackjack tables downstairs. And the spirit is there if not the experience.
The kitchen turns up a steady stream of winners. Consider the choice itself, a full page of appetizers the likes of mussel salad with saffron, and wild mushroom soup. Two pastas are among the appetizers - spaghetti with fresh vegetables, cream, parmesan and pine nuts, and green noodles with cream, parmesan, smoked salmon and truffles - both being creamily sauced al dente noodles that could alone make the reputation of an Italian restaurant. The choice is painful, even without the possibility of raw paper-thin beef slices sauced with a sparkling onion-garlic-anchovy mayonnaise. Then one must consider the oysters - poached lightly in white wine and sauced with a deft bercy. One finds no better appetizers even in Washington.
The winning streak falters with main dishes, the veal and lamb being excellent quality, carefully cooked, but the salmon being just short of fresh and garnished with acid baby onions. Nor are the main courses as imaginative as the appetizers; rather, they are the usual array of steak Diane, veal piccata or the newly fashionable paillard de veau, duck with orange sauce and coq au vin. Sweetbreads - with canned artichoke bottoms and goose liver, and commendable perigourdine sauce - are about the most ambitious of the dishes.But vegetables the garlicked zucchini or broccoli with the softest of hollandaise sauces. On to dessert, rolled up on a tiered cart, the best of them the crepes with a sauce like melted cheese-cake, or plain raspberries with whipped cream. To accompany the food is a wine list ranging from Rothschild to Egg Harbor vineyards, and reasonable prices. To follow the food, very good coffee and complimentary cigars and cigarettes, a bill of roughly $25 a person and a feeling of coming out ahead.