This place is fairly new....less than a year old. My wife and I live down the block and had been meaning to try it, but with our baby we rarely get out. Finally got there tonight for her birthday and...WOW. We've lived in Boston and NYC and frankly this place would be right at home in a major city not only for ambiance and design but for the creativity and sophistication of the menu. It's a Portuguese/Italian fusion place with a heavy emphasis on seafood....they refer to it as Iron Bound meets Little Italy, but definitely to us it seemed more the former than the latter in terms of flavors. And this is a FLAVOR FORWARD restaurant. Big, bold tastes all the way down the menu.
We started with fantastic appetizers of mussels and tamales. The mussels are the best I've had in New Jersey...far from your North Jersey Italian standard with red sauce or white wine/garlic broth, these are served in a pungent and spicy liquid so herbacious that it's green. Very bright and fresh tasting, with of course punches of garlic to go with the hot peppers. Mussels themselves were plump and fresh.
The tamales...oh man, the tamales. Fluffy, slightly sweet clouds of cornmeal served over husks with shrimp, lobster, chourico, and crispy shallots and a rich seafood sauce. Wow.
Mains on the menu are divided between proteins/seafood entrees and pastas. We had one of each to share. The braised short ribs had a fairly standard continental profile...a deep rich red wine reduction....but really well executed. The ribs themselves were moist, the the crispy fingerling potatoes that soaked up the sauce underneath were unbelievable. The whole affair was topped with more of the crispy shallots (or were they leeks?) which helped balane the textures.
For the pasta, we had the dish of the night, for me anyway: black linguini with clams and sausage. All their pastas are made fresh, and this black squid ink linguine was perfect. The sausage was a very thinly sliced linguica I think. The clams were perfectly cooked and plump (I got a little grit, but eh...). The dish was tied together by a rich, clammy white wine sauce, but what really put it over the top was the generous topping of queso fresco and sweet roasted garlic cloves. Some, I suppose, might find the dish a bit loud, and there is, to be sure, a lot going on. However, somehow, getting the clam, the sauce, the sausage, the garlic, and the queso fresco together on the fork in one bite resulted in something out of this world.
Deserts were fine. I don't really care about them so I don't pay too much attention. One was a nice key lime mousse pie, the other some kind of chocolate mocha cake.
Altogether the check came to $89 before tip. When you consider that we paired the meal with a 2007 Pietranara Brunello di Montalcino that we brought with us from home, it certainly felt like a bargain.