Restaurant Review

Mompou

Mention Newark’s Ferry Street, and immediately brought to mind are the Ironbound and its Spanish and Portuguese culture and cuisine. Mompou, named for twentieth-century Spanish composer Frederic Mompou and serving tapas rather than full meals, has joined the neighborhood. The chef is Elia Santos, from Cape Verde, off the West African coast. Although one can certainly eat enough dishes to make a meal—three or four small dishes here would probably do it—Mompou’s concept, according to owner Steven Yglesias, is a wine bar where people can pop in until the wee hours to have a drink, listen to music, which consists of a deejay or live performers, and nibble. And it’s great to have a place that stays open late. Go for the fun, but don’t expect a standard restaurant.

With its hammered-copper ceiling, wood floors, exposed-brick walls, and one wall that features crosscut log slices—there’s also a long bar with a dark uplit top—the space is quite beguiling. Downstairs there’s a lounge with soft hassocks and a few tables and outside a patio used in warm weather. The round tables throughout are too small for full dining; food is served on small tiered metal stands, so if you order several dishes, you must ask the waiter to stagger them for the sake of space.

Although Mompou bills itself as a wine bar, many of the selections I request are not available. The menu, though, includes a martini list, and I see quite a few exotic cocktails being consumed at the bar. Several dishes, too, aren’t available during my visits, including gazpacho, which is a tapas staple. If something can’t be ordered, take it off the menu.

In place of the gazpacho, we order a sunny butternut squash purée topped with cilantro, which is very good indeed. The cilantro butter served with the bread is positively addictive. Most of the small dishes we try are acceptable, but none is exciting. A wedge of Spanish tortilla brightened with Swiss chard, onions, and potatoes is fine, as are the cubes of grilled salty Serrano ham with peas, and the sautéed potatoes doused with a sprightly vinaigrette. Spicy chorizo sausage adds a shot of flavor to grilled peppers, and both the sautéed calamari with corn and crabmeat in a natural broth and the slices of octopus with paprika, garlic, and red chilies are tender and the combination of flavors interesting. One of my favorites is the delicious but labor-intensive langoustines—complete with heads, claws, and carapace—with roasted-garlic aioli. Fresh artichoke hearts stuffed with crabmeat and ham and served with a red-pepper aioli are tasty, but the empanadas are dry, beef tenderloin tips in a sherry-garlic sauce are slightly chewy, and the chicken meatballs are tough.

Salads, platters of fruit or meat and cheese, bruschettas, and a few sandwiches are available. There’s something for everyone, although desserts aren’t a strong point.

Reviewed in: April 2006

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Restaurant Details

  • Cuisine Type:
    Tapas/Small Plates
  • Price Range:
    Expensive
  • Ambience:
    Urban wine bar
  • Service:
    Very good
  • Wine list:
    Disappointing

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