The Rosie Report: Tapas De Espana in North Bergen

Visits to Tapas de Espana, North Bergen; Casserole, Bloomfield and Mitsuba, Chatham.

TAPAS DE ESPANA, NORTH BERGEN
This lively restaurant, which has been open since 1968, offers classic Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on tapas. Some recommendations:

  • Come hungry, as portions are big.
  • The menu is extensive so round up all your foodie friends in order to try as many dishes as possible.
  • The location is congested so allow enough time to find parking.
  • Be sure to make a reservation as the restaurant was packed early on a weekday night.
  • When ordering, remember that complimentary soup starts your meal. Ours was a vibrant-yellow chicken noodle soup with chunks of chicken.

It was hard zoning in on what to order, as over 40 tapas were listed on the menu as well as daily specials printed out with their prices. We had tender grilled shrimp with virgin olive oil and lemon; chunks of potatoes in a spicy sauce made with tomatoes, hot paprika and wine; and our favorite of imported Serrano ham and buttery manchego cheese. The one disappointment was soggy octopus drizzled with olive oil and sweet paprika. We prefer a firmer texture and char on our eight-armed mollusks!

Three people shared two entrees and had food to take home. A tomato sauce served as the base for swordfish steaks with a side of string beans, boiled potatoes, carrots and a plate of addictive fried Spanish potatoes similar to potato chips. Less saffron rice and additional seafood would have created a more substantial paella marinara created with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and lobster. We had no room for dessert, but if we did we would have ordered the crema Catalana, a Spanish-style creme brulee or the tres leche cake.

The dining room is dimly lit and dated, but white tablecloths and red napkins complement the brick walls decorated with Spanish-themed pictures, sconces and decorative plates. Our waiters, all from Spain, worked together to ensure prompt service.

The reasonable wine list is heavy with Spanish selections and house made Sangria is available. Open daily from 11:30 AM.

Tapas de Espana, 7909 Bergenline Avenue, North Bergen 201-453-1690; tapasnj.com.

Paella marinara

ROSIE’S SHOUT OUTS:

CASSEROLE BISTRO, BLOOMFIELD
Upon looking at the menu my first question to the waitress was “Why is the restaurant named Casserole when there are no casseroles available?” She explained that casserole in Spanish (cacerola) is a saucepan and pointed to the pans decorating the walls. This small, casual, neighborhood restaurant reflects chef/owner Johnny Arango’s Columbian roots with items such as yucca fries, spicy batatas bravas (roasted potato wedges) and grilled skirt steak. We shared crispy fried calamari served with two sauces: hot, cherry-pepper and marinara. Twice-cooked, crunchy-skinned duck—a rarely seen menu item—was surrounded by an orange-blueberry sauce, wild-mushroom potato croquette and spinach. A knife was not needed for the fall-off-the-bone pork shank paired with roasted potatoes and spinach. Other menu items include salads, short ribs; horseradish-crusted salmon, chicken cacciatore and pastas. We bypassed the two, made-in-house desserts: warm, banana-bread pudding with butter pecan ice cream and vanilla sauce, and rice pudding. When dining in Bloomfield our dessert of choice is ice cream at Holsten’s.

Casserole Bistro, 377 Broad Street, Bloomfield 973-566-0190 BYO

Pork shank

MITSUBA JAPANESE CUISINE, CHATHAM
Hot towels are presented when seated—an appreciated touch, as Lowell and I usually eat sushi with our hands rather than chopsticks. This neighborhood restaurant is a good option if you are in the area and want Japanese cuisine. The fish is fresh and menu extensive, with not only sushi, sashimi and rolls, but also teriyaki, hibachi, tempura, agemono (deep-fried pork or chicken), nabe mono (hot pots) and udon. We started with eggplant slices in miso sauce and crunchy vegetable tempura (taro, sweet potato, acorn squash, zucchini and broccoli) followed by crazy salmon rolls (spicy, crunchy salmon and avocado inside, salmon outside) and a tuna-lover dinner with spicy tuna roll, tuna roll, tuna, white tuna and pepper tuna. This restaurant gets busy. There were five chefs working the sushi bar when we were there on a weekday, so be sure to make a reservation, especially on weekends.

Open Monday though Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday from 4 PM.

Mitsuba Japanese Cuisine, 237 Main St, Chatham 973-635-3888 mitsubachatham.com BYO.

Eggplant with miso sauce

Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

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