Sol-Mar

You can go by quite a number of restaurants - not just Portuguese restaurants - on your way down Ferry Street to Sol-Mar, but keep going 'til you get there, It's worth it. I've never set foot inside, just eaten out at one of the sidewalk cafe tables during the summer. There are awnings over the tables to help combat the suns rays, but plenty of light gets through to really add to the summer outdoor eating thing. It's a mixed crowd of everyone here- various ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc. The staff is great, and for a crew of rather young people, they're pretty serious about taking care of you.

Clams Casino

In New England, specifically around southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, we have stuffed quahogs. These are really large clams whose meat has been shucked and mixed into a bread stuffing, sometimes with minced chouriço, and placed back onto the shell. It's awesome. So, I was hoping clams casino in a Portuguese restaurant in Newark New Jersey might venture out and do something like it. Well, no, they didn't, but what they did do was pretty good. The clams are cooked in tact on the shell, and the stuffing placed over the meat with a small piece of bacon on top - pretty standard, but good. For me, the clams really come to life with the lemon juice squeezed over it, otherwise, it was mostly about the breading and butter.

Grilled Red Snapper (Pargo Grelhado Special)

What I really wanted was the grilled halibut special, but they were out. Instead, my gracious host and server offered to make grilled red snapper instead, and I was happy to accept. I say it all the time, but on a hot sunny day, there is no better meal for me than grilled fish, any fish as long as it's grilled. It seems like the lightest meal you can have without having to resort to a salad or something equally depressing. Just the fish, some olive oil and a plain boiled potato or two. I just love it. And Sol-Mar really lived up to it's name (Sol=Sun and Mar=sea). Under the canopy of my sidewalk table, which protected me from the intense sun, I awaited my fish. It showed up looking perfect - my favorite wishbone-shaped steak cut - with crispy and crunchy skin on the outside, and super delicate, moist and tender white fish that was just starting to flake inside. It really was perfectly cooked. Dipped a little of it into the olive oil here and there, and I simply zoned out and thought about nothing, but the meal in front of me.

Amêijoas à Espanhola

Sometimes good things can present themselves as a problem. Sol-Mar has some really good bread on the table and with a dish like Amêijoas à Espanhola, you can get caught up dipping the bread in the sauce and fill up before your entrée arrives. Generally, à Espanhola is a tomato-based broth with white wine, onions and green peppers. Sol-Mar used a thick Italian-style marinara which for me is not as good, and not as good for dipping bread, either. I think it over powers the sweetness the shell fish, especially when you already have all the other ingredients. A broth sort of dilutes those other ingredients and gives the clams a fighting chance to be noticed. Regardless, the smoky Portuguese sausage, chouriço, really helped make this interesting for me. This is one of my favorite appetizers, but at Sol-Mar, it's just good, not great.

Polvo à Lagareiro

When I was a kid, my mother would make octopus on the weekends, usually stewed and sometimes roasted in the oven with potatoes. That's still my favorite octopus preparation, but after traveling traveling in Greece, Italy and later Portugal, I discovered grilled octopus. In the US, octopus has become somewhat common as part of a salad or appetizer, simply grilled with some olive oil. À lagareiro, translated as olive oil press or pressman, has come to signify any seafood that is grilled then finished with olive oil, and usually garlic - very similar to Italian aglio e olio. More often than not, the octopus is served with whole, unpeeled grilled potatoes whose starch content turned to sugar giving the potatoes a sweet roasted flavor. ,

As I've mentioned, Sol-Mar does seafood really well and the octopus was no exception. It's served on a ceramic a roofing tile, which is a traditional Portuguese presentation for grilled seafood and fish. In a simple preparation like this, you get to full flavor of the octopus with the mild accompaniment of the olive oil and garlic. It can be quite salty, too, but the grilling brings out the sweet and savory flavors in the meat. Octopus has a slight complication: you need to cook it quickly, or cook it for a long time. Anything in the middle will result in chewy and stringy meat. And there was lots of octopus to eat and it was delicate and tender. The one difference in this dish from others I've had is the addition of the grilled onions, which in this particular preparation, went really well with bits of octopus on the same fork. I've had Polvo à Lagareiro elsewhere and got a plate full of potatoes and very little octopus. It was just the opposite at Sol-Mar, and happily it was also delicious.

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Sol-Mar

267 Ferry Street
Newark NJ 07105
(973) 344-3041
www.solmar-restaurant.com/

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