So whether you are looking for a place to unwind after work, smoke a cigar, or sample some of the delicious Cuban food, Azucar is the place.
Walking up to the spacious restaurant, one passes the large outdoor café, which will be open in warmer weather. There are large windows all around that give passers by a look at the festive décor, which includes large ceiling fans, palm trees, and walls in warm shades of terra-cotta.
The bar area is very modern and includes a high-definition flat screen TV. The walls and the stairs have built in lights that change color every few minutes. The lights provide a nice backdrop for the high gloss black lacquered tables and chairs. This look is pulled together by the colorful amber and red candles and pictures of Cuba. The Cuban music, which adds to the ambiance, is low enough to have a conversation without straining your voice.
On the night we were there, my companion and I were greeted Ivette Vazquez, one of the charismatic owners. Most nights, Vazquez oversees the restaurant, to make sure guests are satisfied.
She recommended the house specialty drink, the Mojito.
Their Mojito is served in a tall drink glass and garnished with a piece of sugar cane. It is a sweet blend of Bacardi rum, mint, fresh lemon, seltzer and sugar. It is refreshing!
We also sampled the sweet Florida punch and the Gran Mojito, which is made with aged reserve rum and was a slightly richer version of the house.
Azucar has an extensive specialty drink list. They were designed to make the customer relax and think of days by the pool. All are prepared with fresh ingredients, juices, and top shelf liquor.
They plan to update the drink list according to the season.
We nibbled on the dip and crackers that were brought to the table as soon as we sat down.
The dip was a smooth blend of cream cheese, roasted red peppers, ham and pickles and had a smoky, meaty flavor to it.
For starters we had the three plate tower of Cuban appetizers. The massive tower makes a stunning presentation and is a popular dish with customers.
Nick Vazquez, co-owner and executive chef, cooks with flair. Vazquez first learned to cook by watching his mother. A few of the menu items are credited to her.
The sampler had: deep fried tender pieces of chicken, crispy green plantain chips that had a hint of garlic, and the lightly breaded ham croquettes.
There were crunchy, thick cut fries served with the specialty culantro (Cuban version of cilantro) sauce. The sauce is out of this world! It is made with sour cream, culantro, and other spices. It was great with the plantain chips too.
We had tasty grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon and delicious spicy, beef empanadas, tender pork, and a fantastic lightly breaded meat and vegetable croquette, which combines the potato-like root vegetable and ground beef.
Some of these items can be ordered off the menu, but a few, like the shrimp and stuffed root vegetable only come with the tower. This is a great dish to share with two or more people, and is reasonably priced at $25.
Then we tried other small plate dishes including: Spanish sausage, grilled shrimp, and a beef stew. The grilled Spanish sausage was marinated in white wine and topped with peppers and onions. It came with chunks of bread to sop up the savory sauce.
The grilled shrimp was cooked with garlic infused olive oil and chili peppers. It was beautifully presented on a wooden dish shaped like a fish. The shrimp were tender and spicy and had a nice kick from the hot peppers.
The fabulous stew came with a side of white rice, and black beans. The stew, ($17) was infused with flavor from the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and tender flank steak. This hearty meal will satisfy those with a big appetite! Other tapas include: crab meat cocktail, ceviche, mussels and more.
The appetizers are reasonably priced from $5 to $15.
For dessert we tried the rice pudding and the coconut rum flan.
The home made rice pudding was thick and creamy. The delicious flan, which is cooked with Bacardi rum, was smooth and had a delicate coconut flavor. Excellent for those who want a taste of something sweet. It was perfect with rich cups of espresso. Other desserts include: caramel flan, rum cake with pineapple, fruit sorbet, bread pudding and more.
Desserts are priced from $4 to $10.
The kitchen is open all day long. They are open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 3 p.m. Dinner is served Monday through Thursday from 3 to 11 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 1 a.m. On Saturday they are open from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 10 p.m.
They validate parking at the South Garage on Washington Boulevard and plan to offer valet parking in one month.
The private dining room can be rented for parties and can hold up to 65 people. There are many catering options available including cocktail parties.
Azucar Cuban Cuisine & Cigars is located at 495 Washington Blvd. in Jersey City. If in Edgewater, stop by their first location, which has been open for over 10 years. For more information, please call (201) 222-0090 or visit: www.azucarcubancuisine.com.