Asian fusion is a specialty many restaurants aspire to create, but few area restaurants can really pull it off. Nanking Asian Fusion at Bally’s Atlantic City is one of those restaurants that does it right. Combining different options from throughout Asia, the menu offers a little bit of everything and gives patrons the chance to expand their palates.
The eatery is the perfect place to go if you’re feeling daring, because a handful of options come with a twist. The Japanese pineapple drink, for example, features cilantro, rum, pineapple and … aloe vera? Try not to fear, and be ready to enjoy a wide range of flavors.
What we liked: The décor at Nanking is cozy and beautiful. Red is the color of choice here, making you feel bold as you browse the menu.
Privacy screens were adorned between booths, but with the intimate setting, one could imagine it could get noisy when the dinner crowd rolls through.
The service is truly exceptional. Since the menu is foreign, it’s understandable guests will have a lot of questions. Our server was not only friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, but she was able to offer great recommendations depending on how adventurous you’re feeling and how much spice you can handle.
If hot is how you like it, try the chili paste in the tiny saucer on your table. Just have some water handy before you take a bite.
The majority of the menu is Thai, with Chinese and Indian food taking up the next largest portions, so it’s easy to try something new or to find an old favorite.
The meal began with Peking duck rolls ($9), which were seasoned with ginger and came with mouth-watering pineapple chutney for dipping. If you happen to choose the same starter, keep the chutney for the rest of your meal; it’s so sweet and delectable you’ll want to dip just about everything in it.
The duck inside the rolls was perfectly cooked and juicy, offering your stomach a good warmup for the rest of the meal.
Next up was Beijing shrimp ($14), which was a generous portion of breaded shrimp, pan-fried with scallion ginger wine. The outside layer had a hint of sweetness and of spice that left us satisfied.
For dinner, we started with the Hakka chili noodles ($14). Our server warned of the spice, so we went with a mild version of the dish. It came out with just enough kick to keep us going back for more. Even better than the taste was the portion. On a heaping pile of noodles was a mix of shredded and cubed chicken and fresh vegetables that managed to remain crisp, even after reheating the next day for lunch.
A popular dish is the snow crab and chives dumplings ($10), and it was easy to see why. The dumplings were packed with fresh-tasting crabmeat and flavored with tomato and tamarind, but the overwhelming taste was the crab. Served with a side of spicy mango chutney, which was creamier than the pineapple chutney, made it the best dish of the evening.
For dessert, it was hard to pass on the banana egg roll ($7), which came out coated in a light sugar and chocolate syrup. Inside the rolls was a giant slice of banana that was paired with a cup of flavorful vanilla ice cream for dipping. It was a tasty dessert to end the night with.
If you’re feeling ultra-daring, however, you may want to go with the bird’s nest soup. The soup is not for the faint of heart. Found in caves in China, you’ll find birds called swiftlets. Someone discovered that when these birds regurgitate — yes, regurgitate — the liquids turn into a rubbery, sweet consistency when making contact with the air. Considered a delicacy in China, it is packaged and sold for as much as $5,000 per 8 ounces or more.
The bird’s nest soup is Nanking’s take on the delicacy, and boy does it look the part. Served in a hot bowl is a clear liquid with chunks floating in it. The chunks tasted like gelatin and the liquid was thick, just like saliva, but had a faint sweetness to it. It turns out this mock version is made with the saliva of a swallow, which is in the same family as the swiftlet. At $14, you’re paying for a novelty item and a story from the server, but it’s worth trying so you get the full Asian experience.
If you’re looking for other drinks worth trying, take a stab at the bloody Mary with Indian spice, a white cosmopolitan with white cranberry, or plum wine, which is white but high in sweetness.
What we didn’t like: Most of the negatives about Nanking are things beyond its control. For instance, if you want to give your hands a quick wash before eating, you have to exit the restaurant and walk across a giant lobby to find the bathroom. Luckily though, Nanking and other restaurants are on the sixth floor of Bally’s, so you don’t have to navigate the casino floor to find the bathroom.
If your meal is taking a little longer than expected, it may be because Nanking shares a kitchen with 6ix: A Bistro next door. During our stay, our dishes were delivered promptly, but look out for busier times of the night.
A dirty fork managed to find its way to the dinner table. It’s easy for the restaurant to overlook, as the fork looked clean except for a dried piece of food. This was probably due to a packed dishwasher. Luckily, there are chopsticks available for your dining experience and you should try to avoid the fork anyway. Don’t worry if you aren’t the best at using chopsticks, practice makes perfect!
Insiders tip: Be sure to ask any questions you have about the menu because the servers are more than prepared to give you the best suggestions.
Bottom line: If you love Asian food or you’re up for trying something new, Nanking at Bally’s should be at the top of your list.