Atlantic City Restaurant Reviews: Send in the Clones

Philly loves Buddakan and Continental; Boston loves Sonsie. But can these urban living rooms thrive in A.C.'s new Pier?

The name is a variant of a Gaelic word meaning "good luck" or "good cheer." The concept is bistro, reinforced by dark woods, mica lamps, high-backed booths, white tablecloths and good wines. The menu ranges beyond Europe, adding several Asian items to the mostly Mediterranean mix. Only a few dishes have been carried over from Sonsie/Boston, which is a good thing because they were the least appealing choices of my review meals: an uninspired plate of stir-fried green beans in a puddle of soy sauce, and an oversize bowl of crisp rice noodles in a sweet-spicy sauce with pork, shrimp, chicken, and an avalanche of bean sprouts. Chef Martin Doyle, formerly of Suilan, Twenty21 and Cutters, charts a more satisfying course with a gold-and-candy-striped beet salad, dressed with citrus vinaigrette and garnished with warm panko-crusted goat cheese. Bursts of fresh thyme come with nearly every bite of a thin-crusted pizza topped with mushrooms, black olives, duck confit, arugula, melted cheese, and — in the middle — a pile of superfluous fried shoestring potatoes. A better version, excellent twice-fried fries tossed with fresh herbs and a gloss of garlic butter, accompanies the lobster roll sandwich at lunch, and a beefy grilled chimichurri-coated hanger steak at dinner — one of several variations on steak frites. But the intrusive taste of cilantro and heavy-handed caper dressing marred the classic Niçoise salad, and the bistro-standard tuna tartare suffered similarly, seasoned much too aggressively with soy and capers.

Service was sometimes comically wrong, with long waits, misdelivered items, and a hostess asking if we wanted our coats in the middle of a meal. (Another table had asked for theirs.) Though coffee drinks are a specialty, the regular coffee is weak.

Sonsie does have some wickedly potent martinis — the not-too-sweet S’moretini, with its bobbing baby marshmallows and graham-cracker-crusted rim, is a standout — as well as some lesser-known wines by the glass worth discovering. That could make Sonsie the wine-bar alternative to the Continental’s cocktail crowd.

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