The siren call of the gaming tables and one-armed bandits a few steps away beckoned, but inside the winning Fin, a new seafood restaurant at the Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City, there were plenty of other lures. Shellfish towers were piled high with clams, oysters, lobster and crab. Maki rolls encasing melt-in-your-mouth tuna were expertly assembled at breakneck speed. The dayboat scallops had been seared. The Block Island swordfish were grilled. The Jersey flounder had been pan-fried. A trio of onion-and-panko-coated shrimp "danced" on a lobster and blue crab cake while Garden State wines flowed. Tableside, the view of a calm Atlantic beyond the terrace added a serene note to the clamor of the restaurant's opening celebration last Thursday.
Like a fisherman relieved after a hard day on the open seas, executive chef Demetrios Haronis of Cape May, N.J. was pleased to sit and chat about his efforts to bring a high-caliber seafood experience to the world's most famous boardwalk. A graduate of the Academy of Culinary Arts in Mays Landing, N.J. who cut his culinary teeth as a child at his parents' restaurant in Wildwood, Haronis joined the Tropicana as a sous-chef in 1994 after working in several restaurants from Longport to Cape May, N.J.. A true son of the Jersey shore, Haronis explained that his goal is to source as many ingredients as he can from local fishermen, farmers, and vintners, and shared his secrets for successful seafood shopping and cooking. Whether you start with fish that's store-bought or freshly caught, here are some tips from Haronis on how to reel in a good meal.