A.C. Now: Live at Five


No kidding: We spent the past week eating (and drinking) our way through the gorgeously gleaming brand-new restaurants at The Pier at Caesars. All that hard work, just to bring you the lowdown on what’s up with Stephen Starr’s Buddakan and Continental, and Patrick Lyons’s Sonsie, Trinity, and Game On! Our advice: Go now, before everyone else catches on.

Buddakan
The Pier at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, 609-674-0100; buddakanac.com
Have you been to the Forbidden City? Buddakan feels just like it. A little. The Pier’s most tucked-away restaurant — from the hallway, only the gilded Buddha lording it over the communal table is visible — is actually 220-seats massive. Request a table on the red-shuttered mezzanine, a red circular booth bordering the dining room, or a hanging booth on the main room’s red-curtained periphery. Avoid freestanding center tables: way too crowded, chilly, cafeteria-like. Dinner begins with the familiar — “Have you dined at a Buddakan before?” — segueing into a canned explanation of shared-plate service. Coconut moussed veggie fried rice; sweet ponzu-glazed chicken with bitty asparagus; succulent and gently wasabi-coated filet mignon with even better mashed potatoes; tiny tubular room-temp tuna spring rolls; soy and sesame-sauced yellow tail sashimi; highly coiffed salads; subtly elegant black cod; sizzling, sesame-oiled this and that; tiny saccharine $12 cocktails; carrot cake mousse and lemongrass crème brûlée pretty enough to eat; Saturday night reservations two months in advance. You know the drill.

Continental
The Pier at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, 609-674-8300; continentalac.com
In short: the most fun — the funnest, actually — joint in The Pier. In long: various brightly accented, Jetsons-looking rooms, one purple with bubble windows, another with red and orange car seat booths, another over indigo pools, another beneath a golden funnel hearth; clever cocktails made with chai and champagne, muddled cherries and bourbon, and lavender and gin; and big plates of tiny, yummy brunch (baby Benedicts, cheeseburgers, tiramisu waffles) through dinner. Favorites: French onion dumplings baked in escargot dishes, wee chicken meatballs stuffed with blue cheese and coated in buffalo sauce, tender lamb chops with carrot hummus and chopped Greek salad, teensy potato cups stuffed with tuna tartare, and itty-bitty $4 desserts. Plus, the standards: heaped-up salads, haystacks of fries, tangled pad Thai, understatedly funky music, stylish and confusing restrooms, and casual yet efficient servers wearing pink golf shirts. Reservations available for large parties only.

Game On!
The Pier at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, 609-345-6800; gameonac.com
If you ask, you can get a menu at this never-a-cover, open-until-3 a.m. mega sports bar. You can sit out front in black and red chairs and nibble white clam pizza or muffuletta, lobster roll or New England steak tips. You can slide into a round red booth and order a Philly cheesesteak, Carolina barbecue, or a Coney Island or Chicago hot dog. You can. But you probably won’t. You will, however, crane your neck and strain your vision to absorb the 96 television screens around the bar. You will scream to be heard over the unimaginably loud sound system. You will request that the TV-DJ tune into your desired game. You might hazard a fling on the mechanical bull. You might reserve a skybox — tricked out with private TVs, a mini fridge, bottle service and a private restroom — for a bachelor party. But most of all, you will definitely, undoubtedly, drink enough to make you think about getting up to dance on the bar — which was built for dancing — in order to grind with one of the barefooted Jersey girls up there, or to be one of those girls yourself, or to whisper in one of their ears, “Please, get down. I don’t want to contract foot fungus from my beer.”

Sonsie
The Pier at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, 609-345-6300
Boston’s best-loved restaurant is poised to become A.C.’s favorite. It has The Pier’s best location: First after the skywalk. It has The Pier’s most comprehensive menu: bison or mini burgers, garlic or parmesan truffle French fries, simple (tomato and basil) or snazzy (mee krob or duck confit) pastas and pizzas, eight kinds of steak frites, salads tossed tableside, and more than 30 wines by the glass. It opens early for ham and cheese omelets, La Colombe lattes, yogurt parfaits, and lemon ricotta pancakes, and stays open until 11 p.m. for thick-crusted Vietnamese spring rolls and focaccia with roasted garlic cloves and olives. There’s a nicely sized bar with a serious sound system. There are sidewalk-like see-and-be-seen café tables, and tall, round leather booths for slinking down in and hiding. A glassed-in private wining and dining room hosts private parties. It is, in the words of owner Patrick Lyons’ people, like Rouge — but bigger.

The Trinity
The Pier at Caesars, One Atlantic Ocean, 609-345-6900
The formula at The Pier’s Irish pub is familiar. There are imported vintage apothecary shelves, a gas fireplace, low lighting, U2’s greatest hits, Guinness on draft — and on pork chops. Much like Rí-Rá, this tavern is a retreat for the scene-weary, a place for grown-ups who wanna play quarters without shouting over the thumping sound system at Game On!, for drinking $5 pints of beer, not $12 martinis. It’s also the city’s best spot for noshing on hearty Emerald Isle fare: gravy-drenched all-day breakfast fry, Dublin coddle, herb-roasted chicken, requisite Reubens and fish and chips, and all manner of savory pies, potatoes (mmm … truffle potato cakes) and green veggies (yum for minted peas) that’ll keep you warm as a muffler long after you’ve reentered reality.

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