From the pier at Exchange Place in Jersey City, you' get one of the best views of Manhattan. It's worth the two minute, now two dollar, Path ride from the World Trade Center for the look back at the city. And just three blocks away is Lisbon II Restaurant and Bar. Formerly, "Lisbon" at another location, "Lisbon II" is conveniently just blocks from Exchange Place. Entering in the place, the bar on the left and the dining area on the right occupy the same room with a shoulder-high barrier. The bar runs the length of the building, and the dining area holds about half a dozen tables, or so.
Inside, the décor is a little kitschy, with those mass-produced fake French paintings on the walls, but other than that it's fairly simple and looks like most family restaurants. The staff if very friendly and accommodating. The menu is fairly lengthy with a mix of traditional Portuguese dishes and some typical American bar/restaurant comfort food.
Clams in Garlic Sauce
The clams arrived in the usual metal pot, but I was surprised to see the lack of broth. Usually, there's a lot of broth to dip bread into — extending the whole experience and, frankly, if done right, the broth is often better than the clams themselves. So it was ironic that they served a giant, toasted half loaf of bread. The bread was delicious, especially with a butter, or some of the clam broth. So, eventually I served myself some of the clams and poured some of what broth there was onto the plate. The clams tasted great, briny and sweet, and definitely fresh. The broth, which I had noticed, was a bit dark from the addition of sweet paprika to the white wine, garlic and parsley. Essentially, it was Bulhão Pato with paprika. The paprika added a little bitterness to the broth, which I found too strong for the clams. It was an interesting change, but I prefer the classic version which has a "cleaner" and brighter flavor.
Grilled Whole Red Snapper
Grilled whole fish is as traditional a meal as any, especially in southern Europe, from Portugal to Greece. Red snapper is one of the more common fish grilled in the US, so you tend to see it on Portuguese restaurants. Portuguese traditionally serve grilled fish with rather subtlety flavored/bland side dishes, like boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, rice and/or vegetables. Most of the flavor of the meal comes from the grilled fish itself, with the addition of the olive oil and lemon (and sometimes vinegar). In other words, the grilled fish is what flavors the potatoes or the fries, especially if you prepare a mixed biteful on your fork. The fish was cooked perfectly with the skin grilled nicely and the meat inside moist and flaky. The flavor was fresh and savory, though part of this particular snapper were a little oiler than others, so those parts had a stronger fish oil taste than I tend to like. If you like mackerel or sardines, then you would probably barely notice this. It was a sizable fish that left me pretty full by the end. The sides were good, too. I was surprised that the potatoes weren't simply boiled and salted, but tasted as if cooked in a cebolada, which is a sautéed mixture of tomato, onion and olive oil and sometimes paprika, and usually heavily layered on top of boiled potatoes, chicken, fish and pork. I love cebolada, however, there was no tomato and onion mixture, just the flavor and the orange-red color paprika on the potatoes. Though the potatoes tasted good, there was something about them that didn't go well together with the fish. It was noticeable after every bite. The vegetable medley, made up of broccoli, carrot, zucchini and cauliflower, was fresh - not frozen or canned - and hand-cut. The slight crunch was a nice change from the soft fish and potato.
I skipped dessert, but had a nice quick espresso. Then, I walked down a few blocks to the pier at Exchange Place on the Hudson and took in the great view of Manhattan, and stared at the new Tower 1 at the World Trade Center and enjoyed a great cigar while taking it all in.
100 York Street
Jersey City NJ 07302