If Borgata, which means
village in Italian, had opened in Las Vegas rather than Atlantic
City, the press might have applauded it as the newest of the best
or the best of the newest casino hotels. In Atlantic City it’s an
absolute knockout and portends to give a boost to the town whose
fortunes had been sinking. With 2,200 guest rooms and suites it
is now the largest hotel in the state and employs nearly 5,000 staff.
Bob Boughner, Borgata’s CEO, said, "We didn’t want to create a
fake place, we wanted something that had soul." The architecture
and design, which in this guest’s eyes have a contemporary Italian
look, seem unique and original. Beyond the porte chochere in the
foyer are two of the property’s 13 installations by artist Dale
Chihuly created in his signature style of individually blown glass
pieces in a range of colors and formed into one sculpture or chandelier
radiating light. Although Chihuly is American, he apprenticed on
Murano Island off Venice and his work reflects that training.
The hotel opened at midnight on July 2 and eager guests rushed
into the casino to play at the 145 gaming tables, 3,650 slots and
to wager at Race Book where individual screens are set at every
seat. By the next day limos were pulling up at the front door, lines
were forming at the check-in, families were dining in the restaurants
and the Via shops with names like Bambino and Carina
were doing a brisk business. A matron clad in evening attire--it
was daytime--bought a diamond and emerald necklace seconds after
the jewelry store opened. Two mimes dressed in flowing goddess-type
gowns and painted white, including their eyelashes, charmed a smiling
Everyone roaming around hoped to get in to see every space. Spa
Toccare was not ready to accept patrons, but visitors freely
wandered about the attractive 50,000 square-foot area. The impressive
pool wasn’t open yet, but from the spa level you could look down
on it and the gardens beyond. Guests were already working out in
the Pump Room, a very complete and up-to-date fitness studio.
Of the 11 on-premises restaurants, the two most up-scale ones
only serve dinner. The ambiance in both is stylish and they were each
selected because neither is part of a chain. Suilan
by Susanna Foo is Philadelphia’s best Chinese eatery and its second
venture. The Old Homestead, a fine New York steakhouse, waited
135 years to expand to another outpost.
At the Homestead the standouts in the steaks and chops category
were the filet mignon, porterhouse steak and New Zealand baby lamb
chops. Our table of five was united in giving the $41 "world famous"
kobe beef burger thumbs down for its blandness. Ditto, the insipid
"colossal" crab meat cocktail, served without a zippy sauce, which
might have added some zest. The multi-ingredient chopped house salad
was fresh and perky. A jumbo shrimp and oyster plate with three
sauces was top-notch. Sides--scalloped potatoes, creamed spinach
and crispy hash brown potato cake--were well executed. Order wisely
and a very good meal arrives at the table.
The private lounges, Amphora’s
and Testora’s, reserved
for high rollers, are huge, plush and without glitz. There are five
entertainment venues including the 1,000-seat Music
Box, featuring comedy and music. Among the six tiers of accommodations,
the most reasonably priced are 1,600 classic rooms. They are very adequate in size and
decorated with soft neutral colors. Showers are big enough for two
and windows are floor-to-ceiling.
Here’s to the revival of Atlantic City and welcome to Borgata for
its part in the renewal.
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, One Borgata Way, Atlantic City,
NJ 08401. Tel 609-317-7834, fax 609-317-1075. Rates start at $179.