Mompou in Newark is a Solid Choice for Tapas
Mr. Diva and I went to Mompou tonight, and we were pleased with the food, although the service was merely adequate because it seemed that our server was overburdened with tables. We had to flag her down for drink and water refills, and she seemed harried. I'm no expert on tapas, but we thought the food was good to excellent.
Here's what we had: we started with the charcuterie and cheese plate. This included some very garlicky marinated green olives and some cornichons, manchego, another cheese that reminded me of grano padano, and some other soft mild cheese that tasted kind of like emanthaler, as well as three types of Spanish ham, one of which was serrano, another which was kind of fatty like mortadella, and another tasty and spicy one I didn't know. Maybe someone else with more Spanish cured meat knowledge can chime in.
Next we moved on to three tapas choices: a marinated cold octopus salad with a tomato and herb salsa, spicy patatas bravas, and piquillo peppers stuffed with crab meat and a very mild goat cheese. Mr. diva devoured the octopus dish, and I barely had a chance to taste it. The octopus was prepared very well; it was tender, and the tomato salsa was well-seasoned with just the right amount of onion, garlic, and citrus. I couldn't stop eating the spicy patatas bravas with the very nice aiolli dressing. The stuffed piquillos were also very good. I was a little leery of the combination of the pungent goat cheese and delicate crab, but it ended up working because the goat cheese was mild, and the sweetness of the roasted piquillos rounded out each bite.
We shared a chocolate cake dessert with mocha cream. Mr. diva was more impressed with the dessert than I was, maybe because it was a little too sweet for me, although the chocolate flavor was good. This cake has a medium crumb, and I think it would be improved by a bit of ice cream, but that's a minor quibble.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable experience with just a few missteps. The atmosphere is very cute and cozy, and I think this is a solid choice in the Ironbound if you are looking to share small plates in an intimate setting. Just for points of reference, the only other restaurants I would recommend in the Ironbound are Seabra's Marisqueria or Fernendez, for seafood and meat, respectively.
Mompou Tapas Bar and Lounge
77 Ferry St, Newark, NJ 07105
I share your recommendation for Seabra's Mariscaida. I have never been to Fernandez, but it is on my list.
Everytime we have tried to go to Mompou, they were completely booked and we could not get in. That is also on my list, but I will wait till after the holidays because I am sure they will be full to capacity for the next few weeks.
In my opinion, the oher restaurants in the Ironbound are too touristy and the quality is just not there. Not so with Seabra's Mariscada. Everything is fresh and of very high quality. Prices are not cheap there, but the quailty of the fish and seafood can't be beat.
There are a lot of backstreet places that cater to mostly Lusophone diners and are hardly ever mentioned here. If you want real Portuguese food, these are the places to go. Judging by what people say they order at Seabra's, Fernandes, etc., it doesn't seem like they are after the more typical Portuguese stuff (e.g. just today someone raving about Seabra's scampi and steaks).
OK, Sol Mar gets mentioned. Stop in at Coimbra, Estrella de Ponderosa, Cervejeria Portugalia, Titanic, Primabel or Allegro and look at the specials of the day (not the regular menu). There you will find whole grilled fish, Bacalhau, Dobrada, Arroz de Pato, Cozidos, Chanfana de Cabrito, etc., not just surf and turf. And avoid the sangria in favor of proper bottle of Portuguese wine. All these places aren't great, but I have favorites at each and they are certainly less expensive than Iberia and the other mass feeding stations.
Ah! What a range of choices! Is there one you would say is best overall? I'm glad to see lots of choices since I'm probably not going back to Casa Vasca -- my last visit there suggested they might be going downhill into bland Iberia/Fornos-style territory. (Yes, yes, I know Portuguese and Spanish are not precisely the same, but I'm just looking for seafood in the Ironbound in general.)