The Quarter at Tropicana
2801 Pacific Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
(609) 344-9100

Operagirl and the Met had a disagreement, the result of which was an expletive-laden phone call to yours truly. One minute I'm cracking wise, "Sounds like you need a casino, babe" and the next minute, I'm doing 85 miles an hour on the Garden State Parkway racing towards the Atlantic City strip. AC can be a fun place if you bring a lot of cash, stay someplace nice, and avert your eyes from the rampant and ever-present squalor. In other words, don't stay within two blocks of he boardwalk. We did our damnedest to do just that. We arrived early, got some outlet shopping done at Coach and BCBG, taught a bartender how to make a proper Waterbury Cocktail at The Pier, and wandered the blinking-lighted floor of various casinos deciding how to properly invest our cash.

From the point of view of someone who isn't visiting AC to burn through his retirement savings, and for whom the Borgata scene is a bit too steeply priced, the Tropicana is the place to be. Specifically, The Quarter, a hub of restaurants and clubs. Tight dresses, cleavage, and sequins are the dress code here. Or at least that's the dress code on weekends. You'd be surprised how much more calm the place is on a weeknight. Oh well, that's last minute planning for ya.

Operagirl and I had narrowed dinner down to Red Square, Buddakan, and The Palm. The Palm and Buddakan have NYC locations, so we chose a place we couldn't take the subway to and Red Square won out. Red Square. If the name didn't make it obvious enough, then the decor does. Red Square plays homage to the Soviets and has the hammers and sickles to prove it. Posters trumpeting the glory of the farmer, the factory worker and other members of the proletariat line the walls. Red Stars abound. The chandelier in the lobby is a glowing Kremlin. Everything really is that red inside. They showed us round their snow peaked mountains way down south, took us to their daddy's farm. They let us hear their balalaika's ringing out. Those comrades really kept us warm.

While we scanned the menu, we ordered cocktails. Red Square has a cocktail menu that's three pages long, all with Soviet kitch names that reference Stalin and Lenin and Gregarin and Ivan this and Sputnik that. The kind of names that gets chicks to giggle on girls night out. The food menu is similar. The only way to describe it Russian-esque, because there isn't necessarily any real Russian food here. What Red Square does have is a massive vodka list, organized by type. We considered the vodka flight, but the last time we ordered a flight of hard liquor ambulances nearly had to be called to ferry us home. We stuck to the cutesy-named drinks. When we bored of that, we got wine.

Operagirl and I both chose the Amuse Bouche dinner, a seven course prix-fix meal. It started with a Tuna Tartare, about two tablespoons of fresh, raw tuna with pine nuts, a wasabi cream paste, and a fancy potato chip. Very good. Sadly, very tiny. This was followed by the Caviar plate, salmon (the pink one) and sturgeon (the black one) each on a piece of toast and miniature pancake. Salmon roe as a noticeable fishy taste that one either loves or hates. As I fall towards the latter, I much preferred the more bitter, but smoother sturgeon.

Third course: the Lobster Bisque, served "cappuccino style" in a demitasse mug. Operagirl and I both loved it. It was extremely smooth, like drinking half and half made from lobster. This great soup was followed by a disappointing fourth course, the Czar Chopped Salad. This was basically a blender shredded salad of lettuce, cabbage, pepper, bacon, tomato and lots of mayo to help hold it in its cube shape. Don't get me wrong, I liked it. It was like coleslaw with bacon. But for a place with $50 entrees, I expect more than a re-named coleslaw plate.

Course five was a palate cleanser. Lemon Sorbet in a shot of citron vodka. Yum..., but, Opergirl thought, oddly placed. Still, she didn't complain. "I don't even like sorbet, but this is amazing."

Course six. Entrees. My choice was the Roquefort Crusted Petite Filet Mignon, on a bed of mashed potatoes in a port wine reduction. Petite is a good word for it. It was solidly half the thickness of a normal filet mignon. The Roquefort crust was more like a lump of Roquefort cheese plopped on top. I ordered it medium rare, but it came medium well. So, since Operagirl actually prefers her steak medium-well, we traded entrees. As it turns out, I made her a similar steak last year. "Yours was wayyyyy better." Aww shucks. But yes it was. It was, not to toot my own horn, actually fantastic. Her choice, which became my dinner, was the Chicken Kiev, served on a bed of rice. The chicken Kiev's that I've had in the past have always been filled with a liquid butter that poured out when you cut inside. This was filled with a buttery cream that you would spread over the chicken as you ate it. It was good, but I burned the roof of my mouth on boiling soup the night before and the crust on the chicken did a number finding every raw section. I can't blame anyone but myself for the pain, but I can say that the bed of veggie rice was somewhat cheap-feeling.

For dessert, Operagirl ordered a Chocolate Cake, which was fine, but average and generic. I ordered the Strawberries Romanoff, which is basically whole strawberries in Grand Marnier and whipped cream. "Well babe," Operagirl said. The as she lazily scanned the almost totally empty dining area, "this wasn't bad, but back in the city, for the money, we'd have gotten way more." Having paid our bill, we stood up, and awkwardly chosen acid jazz played us off.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that our meal at a restaurant celebrating communism wound up costing $200?

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