A nationally acclaimed Washington, D.C.-area chef will open a Belgian-inspired gastro pub at Revel this spring.
Mussel Bar from Chef Robert Wiedmaier is the latest restaurant concept announced by Revel, following previous confirmation that Iron Chefs Jose Garces of Philadelphia and Marc Forgione of New York will expand their culinary empires to Atlantic City. It will be Wiedmaier's second Mussel Bar, following another location in Bethesda, Md.
"When I was younger and I was in Brussels, we used to go to these Belgian roadhouses where we would drink Belgian beer, eat mussels and fries and listen to rock 'n' roll," says the 51-year-old chef, who grew up in Germany and Belgium, where his father was born. "So after I opened some of my other restaurants, I finally got around to opening Mussel Bar, which is something I always wanted to do. So to bring it to Atlantic City is just going to be awesome."
The restaurant will be Wiedmaier's first establishment outside of the Washington, D.C., metro area, where his flagship restaurant, Marcel's, is routinely ranked as one of the best restaurants in the area. Marcel's has been named to Zagat's list of America's Top Restaurants of 2012. Wiedmaier also owns Brasserie Beck in D.C., and Brabo, Brabo Tasting Room and The Butcher's Block, a Market by RW, in Alexandria, Va.
"When I did the one in Bethesda, the build out was $1.1 million," Wiedmaier said. "Let's just say the one in A.C. is a hell of a lot more."
Chuck Bragitikos, president of the Philadelphia-based Vibrant Development Group, which is recruiting restaurants for Revel, said Wiedmaier's restaurant will be situated on the casino floor among a cluster of other restaurants.
"We targeted Robert for the overall strategic position of Revel's dining, which centers around excellence, but accessibility," Bragitikos said. "And Robert really defines that. The quality of what he puts in front of you is superb, yet you are welcome and comfortable in a suit or if you are in jeans."
Bragitikos said Wiedmaier will also bring attention to Revel in the D.C. area.
"He is one of the top chefs there, and that has been pretty unmined territory for Atlantic City casinos," Bragitikos said.
Mussel Bar will feature a 26-seat bar, multiple flat-screen televisions, open kitchen so people can watch chefs prepare their meals, a large dining room and a stage for live rock music. Modeled after a Belgian roadside tavern, the restaurant is designed by HapstakDemetriou's Peter Hapstak and his team and will include "knotted oak wainscoting and floors, mussel-shaped ceiling drops as well as beer bottle and rope light fixtures," and the concrete bar will be embedded with mussel shells.
"We will actually have cameras over every station in the kitchen so people in the dining room can watch the chefs on our TVs," Wiedmaier said. "Between the music and the bar, we want to create a lot of action in there."
The restaurant will feature eight different preparations of mussels, as well as a large seafood display, including langoustines from Scotland, lobsters from Brittany, France, and local seafood, including striped bass and whole Dover sole.
"We will also roast fish in our firewood oven and offer a 50-ounce porterhouse steak crusted in rosemary and other herbs in a red-wine sauce," the chef said. "It will bring my touch from Marcel's, but it won't be as refined. I think it blends the best of Marcel's and Brasserie Beck's. It's about great food, great service and having a lot of fun."
Although Mussel Bar will be known for its mussels and fries - and maybe even its flatbread pizza and shortribs - it will also be known for its beer, particularly Belgian-style beer. There will be 23 taps, eight others in cask barrels and more than 130 beers in bottles.
"There will be a wall of refrigerated beer," Wiedmaier said. "It will be really amazing and unique. There will actually be ladders to reach the beer. When I opened Brasserie Beck, never in my wildest dreams did I realize how big the beer culture is out there. So we want to offer beer lovers an amazing option in Revel."
Jason Spillerman, partner and co-founder of Vibrant, said Mussel Bar will be more than a place where casinogoers dine.
"It's the kind of place you will go to on a Tuesday or a Wednesday as much as a Friday or Saturday because it's not just a special-occasion restaurant," he said. "And I know they are going to do some amazing things to attract the local market, which is very important to Robert. He wants to become a part of Atlantic City."
Wiedmaier is one of the first chefs in the country approached by Revel and Vibrant.
"They came to me four-and-a-half years ago and asked me to come there, and I told them I have never been to A.C.," he said. "Since then, I have been there numerous times and stayed there and ate at all of the restaurants. And it's amazing to me how busy those places are, even during the recession. When Revel stopped construction, I said, 'Let me know when it gets going again.' And here we are. I stood on that property when there was nothing there."
"He saw the vision and drank the Kool-Aid very early on," Bragitikos said. "And to his credit, he has been there for Revel and has spent a lot of time in Atlantic City. We changed some things since we started, and I think it worked out to everyone's benefit."
Wiedmaier will certainly be another interesting character in a culinary market that already has some eccentric and well-known chefs, including Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and, most recently, Sammy DeMarco at Harrah's Resort. When he's not cooking, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington's 2009 chef of the year is riding one of his five motorcycles, fishing or hunting duck, deer or elk. In fact, his custom Bourget chopper will hang from the ceiling over the bar at Revel's Mussel Bar.
"Yeah, it's safer hanging it in Revel," Wiedmaier said with a laugh. "I still ride my Harleys, but that thing is just too dangerous. It's a hard tail with no shocks in the back. I'm too old for that thing."
He said he is also not intimidated by, or concerned about, competing with other restaurants in Revel or the city.
"I am sure Food Network people come into Atlantic City and say, 'Oooh ... an Iron Chef!.' But I have been asked to do Iron Chef and other shows and that's just not my thing. Not that I wouldn't do it, but I have five restaurants to run," he said. "I get a lot of attention and press from my restaurants. Marcel's is rated one of the best restaurants in the world. So for me it's all about very high-quality food and awesome service. I want to embrace Atlantic City and not be known as a typical casino restaurant where you never see these people again. I plan to be there a lot."
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