"This is the perfect place for a romantic, atmospheric dinner"
By Valerie Sinclair
Adega means wine cellar in Portuguese, and this fact is reflected in the decor of this restaurant, located in the heart of Newark's Ironbound district. After my eyes adjust to the dim light, I see that we're surrounded by stucco-and-stone walls, faux grapevines, and copper and brass light fixtures. Once we sink into the plush, upholstered banquettes, I realize this is the perfect place for a romantic, atmospheric dinner.
The menu is a combination of Spanish and Portuguese dishes. My favorite appetizer is a dish of tiny, tender cockles in a spicy garlic-wine broth sparked with cilantro. Meaty fried frogs' legs with garlic and sliced chorizo sausage with garlic are also delicious...
Of the main courses, I love the filet mignon na Pedra, slices of tender raw beef that arrive with a hot marble stone on which you cook them; accompanied by mustard and garlic butter for dipping, it's a wonderful meal to share. Broiled salt cod with green peppers, which comes surrounded by boiled potatoes, is flaky and flavorful. Paella Valenciana, loaded with lobster, shrimp, clams, chicken, cubes of pork, and chorizo sausage, is also good. Many dishes at Adega Grill are covered with so much stuff, it can be difficult to find the main ingredients. This is true of the broiled filet mignon with brandy and mushrooms and the salty veal with mushrooms, both served with mounds of crisp Spanish potatoes and sautéed vegetables.
Few of the dessert list's nineteen choices are made on the premises. The flan is made here, though it's heavy and not worth the calories. Try instead the lemon tartufo, which strikes just the right balance between sweet and tangy, or the chocolate soufflé with a molten center.
130132 Ferry Street, Newark (973-589-8830). Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 am to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 am to 11 pm; Sunday, noon to 10 pm. Wheelchair access easy. All major credit cards.
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Unbound in Ironbound Adega Grill Breaks the Mold, At Least in Its Ambience
By DAVID CORCORAN
THE NEW YORK TIMES - Sunday, July 20, 2003
UTTER the phrase "Ironbound restaurant," and what comes to mind? Pleasure, no doubt, but probably not subtlety or restraint. In the Ironbound section of Newark - a vibrant city-within-a-city that throbs with the accents of Portugal, Spain and Brazil - every street corner seems to hold a food palace with a flashing neon lobster, a long menu of modestly priced Iberian standards, a battalion of waiters hoisting platters the size of parking lots, tall sweating bottles of vinho verde and noisy crowds of determined diners, often holding down tables of 8 or 10 or 12.
Adega Grill is a departure from all that, an island of quiet and refinement in the midst of a carnival. Open since September 2002, it inhabits a long, narrow space in what was once; improbably, a supermarket. To the left is the Adega Bar; to the right, One Thirty-Two, an upscale lounge and nightspot. All are owned by Carlos and Luis Lopes, brothers who are veterans of the Ironbound food scene, and Carlos Lopes's wife, Belinda Luis, a commercial artist who inspired the restaurant's eclectic, winsome design. The chef, José Formoso, is from Spain.
An adega is a wine cellar, and the Lopes brothers are from the north of Portugal, where wine grapes are grown on arbors rather than on the ground. So the grill's inviting, dim interior is hung with artificial grapevines. They crawl over every table. Lighting fixtures are great whimsical bunches of grapes. The place feels like a tasting room at some out-of-the-way vineyard in the hills. Completing the illusion are a stone fireplace and some outlandish but likable furniture, including lushly pitlowed banquettes and a set of towering Siamese throne chairs.
Touches like these are clearly meant to appeal to an uptown crowd. They extend to well-trained waiters in black uniforms and fluent in English; a long, well-chosen wine list with some excellent Portuguese bottles; and a selection of dressy martinis. The effort seems to be succeeding. On both a recent, Saturday night and a weeknight, the room filled quickly with well-dressed customers clearly bent on serious eating.
But beneath Adega's soignée décor, it must be said, beats the heart of your basic, Ironbound restaurant. Though prices are high for the neighborhood, averaging $50 or more per person for three courses with wine, and though a few dishes feature mildly exotic ingredients (cockles, white asparagus), you won't find much on the menu that you wouldn't find at other places down the block or around the corner.
Portions are vast. In the case of at least one appetizer special, this is a great thing. Dozens of tiny cockles (I lost count after 50) are piled high in a terra cotta bowl, over a pool of broth intensely perfumed with cilantro and garlic. They are sweet and tender, and if they seem to go on forever, that's about long enough. Clams are similarly flawless and well cooked, in a white-wine sauce with plenty of parsley and garlic.
Fried calamari rings (lulas à Romana, in Portuguese) are crisp and relatively free of grease, and they go down well with an energetic hot dipping sauce. By contrast, croquettes of salt cod are pasty and bland; so is the crabmeat stuffing in a sea-scallop shell. Blandness also does in white-bean soup. And an otherwise refreshing salad of field greens, strawberries, kiwi slices and shaved Parmesan has a dressing that tastes disconcertingly bottled.
Main courses are a mixed bag of hits and misses. Best of all was also simplest: a whole red snapper on a huge snapper-shaped plate, its skin brown and crisp from the grill and its meat perfectly moist and mild. It was buried under a lovely mantle of green peas and roasted red peppers, and it came (as many entrees do) with a big plate of home-fried Spanish potatoes, at once crisp, chewy and full of character.
Also simple, but more problematic, was espetada mista for two, mixed grill on a gravity-defying double skewer that stood upright on the plate, poised for takeoff. It included shell steak, chicken, turkey, pork chops, chorizo sausage, onions and great chunks of bacon, and it was easily enough for four. The steak was terrific, laden with flavor from marination and fire. But other ingredients were overpoweringly salty or smoky overcooked or undercooked. The turkey was nearly raw at the center - a particular hazard in dim light, since you might not notice until too late.
A filet mignon special, thick, tender and cooked as ordered, came with a tangy beer sauce that lent interest to this usually tame cut of beef. Four thin roulades of sole stuffed with crabmeat had the aura of wedding food, but the fish was perfectly done and the filling had plenty of life. Salmon was well cooked, too, and nicely set off by a caper sauce.
Mariscada and paella, those old reliables, struck me as more or less the same dish: vast schools of seafood adrift on wide platters.
Desserts here are distinctly not of the Ironbound, except for an unusually dense and satisfying flan. Others come from outside suppliers, but they are fresh and well handled, especially a gelato-like passionfruit sorbet that brims with flavor; a chocolate pyramid with a deep-brown exterior and a wicked soft core; and a wild-berry tart with real whipped cream. Opposite the dessert menu is a long column of after-dinner drinks that attest to this restaurant's aspiration to lift Ironbound dining to a higher plane. It's halfway there. All it needs now is a little more inspiration in the kitchen.
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Adega adds sparkle to Ironbound menu
Adega Grill, Newark, New Jersey
Friday, December 6, 2002
By S. Ginzler - NJ Star Ledger
Adega Grill is a stunning spot for Portuguese fare. Dine on a spectacular espetada mista para dois (colossal twin skewers of fire-roasted meats and vegetables for two) while seated on throne-like chairs by a striking stone fireplace.
Ambience: Dazzling. A witty bunch of balloon grapes adorns the vibrant twomonth-old Ironbound storefront. Two dramatic dining rooms lined in stone and accented with faux grapevines, copper candelabra and brass light fixtures simulate an adega (wine cellar). The owners run the adjacent Adega Bar.
Staff: Our initially attentive server became increasingly preoccupied as the evening progressed.
Food: The attractive dishes are almost as alluring as the decor. Warm Portuguese rolls arrived in a rustic metal basket. Chourico assado (Portuguese sausage flamed at the table, $9.25) was outstandingly flavorful, though we were sorry to have missed the flambé, which was performed out of our view in the crowded dining room. Cockles ($9.50, a special) were deliciously awash in a lusty garlic-cilantro broth. We warmed up with a special white bean soup speckled with smoky ham (a bargain at $2). Lulas a Romana ($9) were standard issue fried calamari paired with a not so spicy tomato sauce.
Bacalhau a Adega Grill ($14.95) stole the show. The home-style entree of flaky pan-fried salt cod blanketed in a fresh tomato sauce, sautéed onions, green peppers and bacon was rimmed with crisp chip-style Spanish fried potatoes and served in a fish-shaped ceramic dish. Pargo a pasteleira (whole grilled red snapper topped with peas and chopped red peppers, $16.95) looked gorgeous, but was dull and dry to the taste.
Meaty main courses were uneven. On the plus side: tender sliced filet mignon strewn with sautéed baby shrimp in a distinctive tomato sauce ($21.50) sided by Spanish potatoes and sautéed vegetables. Costeletas de borrego (baby lamb chops, $23.50) gracefully arranged on a platter with oven-roasted potatoes were overcooked. A bottle of Monte Belho ($15), a ripe Portuguese red, was a fine accompaniment.
Other dinner options include pescada em molho verde (whiting with shrimp, clams and asparagus in green sauce with boiled potatoes, $14.95). There is a fondue for two ($36) with thinly sliced filet mignon and veal served with dipping sauces, Spanish potatoes, and seasonal vegetables.
For dessert, there's a good, grainy house-made flan and a familiar roundup of commercial sweets.
Adega Grill is a notable addition to Newark's Ironbound. With the kinks worked out, the eye-catching newcomer promises to be a keeper.
130-132 Ferry Street, Newark, NJ 07103
* Type of Establishment: Spanish / Portuguese
* Price Range: Moderate
* Telephone: (973) 589-8830
* Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Dinner noon-10 p.m. Sunday.
* Payments Accepted: Visa, Master Card, Discover, Amex
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