By Sally Deering
Jersey City’s “Restaurant Row” starts at Grove Street and moves west along Newark Avenue where bistros offer foods of many cultures. Now, there’s a new kid on the block – Raval Tapas Bar & Cocktail Lounge – where guests are invited to enjoy flavors of Spain.
Raval Tapas Bar & Cocktail Lounge recently opened on Newark Avenue with Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop cutting the ribbon at a Grand Opening ceremony and friends gathering for champagne and finger foods to welcome Raval to the neighborhood. Cuisine from Spain is the latest concept from the owners, the Restaurant Development Group (RDG), which also owns the Lucky 7 Tavern, and Satis Bistro in Jersey City.
The Raval team includes Executive Chef Michael Fiorianti, Chef de Cuisine Ed Radich, General Manager Oz Kolar, Assistant Manager, Ryan McEnerney and RDG Partners, Michael Garcia, Geza Gulas and Andrew Siegel. The team named Raval as an homage to the trendy Barcelona neighborhood that is its namesake, and the restaurant/lounge invites guests to enjoy stylish cocktails and tapas in an ambience of hip urban design laid out on two floors.
The menu by Chef Fiorianti features modern Spanish cuisine inspired by his trip to Barcelona this past fall where he immersed himself in the food and culture. The origin of Tapas, Chef Fiorianti says, goes back to when people ordered small plates of food to go with their drinks and the waiters put the plates right on top of the drink glasses.
“Here at Raval, we try to create a Tapas experience: a lot of the classics with a twist,” Chef Fiorianti says. “We make it our own.”
The menu features Tapas in a variety of ways: Pan con Tomate, Toasted Stirato Bread, Fresh Tomato and Garlic; Boquerones, White and Red Anchovies, Pickled Shallots and Mangalitsa Lardo; Tortilla Española, Omelette of Onion, Garlic and Chorizo with Pan Tomate; Patatas Bravas, Crisp Potatoes, Spicy Bravas Sauce and Roasted Garlic Aioli; Espinaca, Sautéed Spinach, Dried Figs and Toasted Almonds; Albóndigas, Lamb Meatballs, Toasted Pine Nuts with Saffron Tomato Sauce; Padron Fritos, Fried Padron Peppers with Maldon Sea Salt; Almendras , Warm Spiced Marcona Almonds and Chipped Manchego; Espárrago, Grilled Asparagus, Preserved Lemon and Piquillo Peppers, Aceitunas Citrus And Chili Marinated Olives; Plato De Queso, Chef Selection of Cheeses; Plato De Embutidos, Chef Selection Of Traditional Spanish Sausages and Jamón, Bellota Spain’s Famed Fermin Iberico Ham.
Media Raciones on the menu include Salpicón, Seafood Salad of Octopus, Prawns, Mussels and Citrus Olive Vinaigrette; Gambas, Head On Prawns Cooked A La Plancha with Garlic Saffron Vinaigrette; Escalivada, Crisp Cana De Cabra Goat Cheese, Roasted Eggplant, Grilled Onions and Peppers; Croquetas De Bacalao, Salt Cod Fritters with Spicy Pepper Jelly; Croquetas Cremosa De Setas, Porcini Béchamel Croquettes and Wild Mushroom; Rabo De Toro, Madeira Braised Oxtail and Parsnip; and Costillas Ala Miel, Sherry and Honey Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly, Pickled Chiles and Marcona Almonds.
Raciones include Fabada, Braised Pork Cheek, Asturian Beans, Chorizo and Morcilla Stew; Bellota Con Vieiras, Seared Sea Scallop, Grilled Bellota Pork, Cauliflower and Cured Tuna with Salsa Verde; Pescado a la Plancha, Seared Market Fish, Hazelnut Romesco, Radish and Snap Pea Slaw; and Secreto Iberico de Bellota, famous Bellota Pork Secret Steak a la Plancha with Salsa Verde.
Raval has two full bars where bartenders serve more than 80 Spanish wines covering over 20 regions of Spain; hand-crafted signature cocktails developed by mixologist Joe Donohue (Kolo Klub), and house-made Sangrias.
Opening Raval on Jersey City’s “Restaurant Row” seems to be the right decision at the right time, RDG partner Michael Garcia says. Newark Avenue is experiencing a restaurant boon that has made downtown Jersey City a popular dining destination
“The energy on this street is powerful,” Garcia says. “And with so many more to come, we’ve only just scratched the surface. We’re happy to be a part of it.”
The RDG partners decided to open a tapas restaurant because they saw a niche, Garcia says. “We were thinking Italian, but there are a lot of Italian places in Jersey City,” Garcia says.
“We felt Tapas was underserved, and it’s hip. Tapas is a culture. In Spain, everything is meant to be shared.”
If you go Raval Tapas & Cocktail Lounge 136 Newark Ave, JC (201) 209-1099 www.ravaljc.com Hours: Mon-Thurs, 3 pm-2 am Fri, 3 pm-3 am; Sat, 11 am-3 am & Sun, 11 am-2 am