Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Mount Airy Casino Resort
Mount Airy is one of the “new” properties that opened in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, less than an hour from Philadelphia, an hour and fifteen minutes from Atlantic City, and two hours from Manhattan. It opened in 2007 as a contemporary luxury property with gourmet restaurants, full service salon and spa, and state-of-the-art casino. We visited in 2012 and had a very good time, even though neither one of us are into gambling.
We visited again this past February to see the updates and upgrades that have been instituted. Of great interest were the changes in the restaurants located at the periphery of the casino floor.
The Buffet, which we did not try this time, was the only space that has not changed much, even though the Asian section that offered Hong Kong-style noodle soups and Cantonese dishes as well as sushi was moved to its own upscale space and named Lucky 8, Noodle + Sushi Bar. During our previous visit we had Sunday brunch at the Buffet and thought it was extremely good, full of well executed seasonal dishes.
“Lucky 8” is captained by an exceptional sushi chef, Mr. Nam. The fish for the sushi was absolutely fresh and properly cut. I have eaten in one of the top traditional sushi restaurants in the Ginza, and I can say that the fish at “Lucky 8” is as good and as fresh as what was offered in Tokyo; additionally the fish-to-rice ratio was also very correct.
We started lunch with generous portions of Dragon Roll (grilled fresh-water eel and cucumber rolled in rice and nori, covered by avocado and slightly sweet eel sauce), and Las Vegas Roll (inside-out roll of large chunks of salmon, tuna and yellowtail). Plus individual pieces of Hamachi (yellowtail), Maguro (tuna) and Ebi (shrimp).
The Cantonese dishes we had for dinner the next evening were also brilliant. Manila Clams in Black Bean sauce, Shrimp with Ho-Fun noodles, Steamed Black Sea Bass, fried Gyoza dumplings with scallion shavings… everything was properly made and exceptionally tasty. We finished with Mochi ice cream; pockets of chewy rice-paste filled with assorted ice cream flavors and topped with miniscule amounts of dry fruit and chocolate chip pieces with edible gold leaf!
During the day we stopped at Red Mango an emporium that sells soft iced yoghurt by weight. Fruit smoothies are made with non-fat yoghurt or the iced yoghurt is pored in a glass and topped with fresh fruit, maraschino cherries, nuts, cheesecake bits or other delicious toppings to create a luscious sundae.
At our last visit we had very nice meals at a steakhouse and an Italian restaurant; those are now combined into one large space Bistecca by il Mulino. The restaurant is part of the Mulino group; upscale Italian-American eateries with numerous venues in Manhattan, Aspen, Miami and Orlando, Las Vegas, Nashville, Atlantic City, Puerto Rico and Roppongi, Tokyo.
This time we enjoyed an exceptional dinner at Bistecca with Italian countryside dishes and hand-made pasta.
We started with two great specials: Strawberries and Endive with marcona almonds, goat cheese and torn mint drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and Crispy Fried Oysters over a slaw of Brussels sprouts and fennel with roast chili aioli. Very tasty, large portions of both that could easily be for 2 persons. The Grilled Octopus tentacles with white beans and tomato ragú on the side were fresh, properly soft but not mealy. The Baked Ziti was cooked with Italian sausage, onion, garlic and tomato sauce and topped with ricotta and melted fresh mozzarella rounds. A bit salty but extemely good; paired very well with the Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina del Sannio which is an elegant, full-bodied white wine that we ordered to have with our special appetizers and the octopus.
By the way, the wine list of Bistecca is outstanding. It has numerous white and red wines from the best Italian DOCs – Brunello, Chianti Classico, and Morellino from Tuscany; Valpolicella and Amarone from the Veneto as well as Soave and Prosecco from the same region; Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, and Dolchetto from Piemonte; Falanghina from Campania; Nero d’Avola, Zibibbo and Trebiano from Sicily. In addition there are many other excellent wines from other parts of the world; all interesting vintages from well known producers.
There were 4 of us at the table so we decided, since the starter portions were so large, to only order the Angus boneless rib eye and divide it amongst us. This was a lovely prime piece of meat, dry-aged for 28 days and charcoal grilled. The meat comes with one choice of four sauces – Béarnaise, Barolo Demiglace, Green Peppercorn and Cognac Cream, and the House Sauce. We asked for the house sauce to taste but, being a purist, I did not use it on the delicious steak.
I finished with a double espresso. My tablemates ordered sweets, Ricotta Zeppole and Torta di Mascrapone. Since my days of living on Mott Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy, I love zeppole. So, I surrendered and had a couple of these delightful fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar. They were as good as I remembered them to be!
The only restaurant I thought was not up to the food quality level of all the others was Guy Fieri’s Mt. Pocono Kitchen. I had lunch there one day. Guy Fieri has made a reputation on TV’s Food Network, as an expert on finding little known, “diners, drive-ins and dives” that have exceptional American comfort food. Obviously he has not personally visited this kitchen. I had ordered a pulled pork sandwich; it came with a side of fries, coleslaw on top and a half-sour pickle speared by the steak knife delivered with the sandwich. It looked very good. Unfortunately, the pulled pork was full of fat chunks and with a minimal amount of sauce. There was cheddar cheese at the bottom of the bun, but it was not allowed to melt as it should be. Even the glass of stout I had with it could not make it palatable. It was very disappointing.
All in all, the vast majority of the food was excellent and the restaurants (except for the Mt. Pocono Kitchen) are highly recommended!
© March 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.