For people looking for quality Spanish cuisine at a reasonable price, Raval Tapas Bar & Lounge may be just the place for them.
The newly opened eatery located at 136 Newark Avenue near Grove Street is also destined to become one of downtown late night hot spots.
Raval Tapas not only offers a brunch menu as well as traditional dinner menu, but a late night menu for late night partiers with a sudden urge for a snack.
In some ways, the quality is three places rolled into one.
It has a hip bright front lounge area straight out of the Museum of Modern Art with a hand-crafted, tiled bench created reminiscent of Gaudi Park Güell benches by Jersey City Designer, Audrey Ryan and constructed G+G Interior Improvement.
Deeper inside, the main dining area is an intimate but modern space with small tables thick with the mood of a classic European eatery.
Downstairs, there is café filled with laugher and the sound of jazz, and walls decorated with images straight out of Barcelona street art.
The restaurant also features as showcase wine room, charred wood walls, charred logo table, hand painted murals, a zinc bar, hand-painted Spanish floor tiles and red tile wall (bar upstairs) with floating shelves.
Geza Gulas, a partner in Restaurant Development Group (which also owns nearby Lucky & Tavern and Satis Bistro) said Raval Tapas was inspired by a trip of Barcelona. While he wanted to bring back the flavor of what he found in Spain.
“But I wanted it to have a modern twist.” -- Geza Gulas
The upstairs restaurant and tapas bar has 30 seats at tables, and 20 seats at the bar. The downstairs area seats 40. Raval offers guests two full bars that will feature an extensive menu of more than 80 Spanish wines covering over 20 regions of Spain; hand-crafted signature cocktails developed by mixologist Joe Donohue (Kolo Klub), dominated by a variety of special Gin and Tonics, along with several house-made Sangrias and Spanish ciders.
The food is the key
Executive Chef Michael Fiorianti has a menu of modern Spanish fare for dinner and brunch. Fiorianti traveled to Barcelona this past fall to immerse himself in the food and culture, so that he could apply inspiration and deep knowledge to Raval’s modern Spanish menu.
The menu offers modern tapas dishes that are meant to be shared in the social atmosphere at Raval.
This menu offers small, medium and large plates with a number vegetarian options as well.
The small portions are reasonably priced. This allows a person to sample as many or as few dishes as they want. Food gets delivered in shifts so that you have time to savor the flavor of one dish before jumping into the next.
While they have a very extensive Spanish wine list, sangria goes well with all of these dishes. They offer red and white sangria which includes oranges, grapes and peaches.
A sampler of traditional Spanish sausages runs about $14, but well worth the price for anyone looking for a powerful European taste. These sausages are hung up and dried, giving them an intense flavor you can’t find even in a local deli.
The sea food salad has citrus vinaigrette that allows the different flavors of the octopus, prawns and mussels to come out. Each piece of sea food is crisp and fresh.
The fried potato dish was particularly good, spicy but not hot, fried, but not heavy. These are a kind of kicked up home fries.
The grilled asparagus played with a number of senses. You could smell and taste the smoky grill. The texture perfect and had a very light sauce.
As with other dishes, the sauce on the food with nothing left behind in the plate.
This is particularly important in this dish which has a lemon base. The lemony taste is intense, but needs to blend with other ingredients, especially in the smaller portioned dishes.
The goat cheese with roasted eggplant and grilled onions and peppers was rich, breaded and had just the right amount of cheese flavoring.
The sautéed spinach with dried figs and toasted almond is bound to become a favorite. The spinach was perfectly braised the almonds were crisp. The figs gave the dish its sweetness.
For those who don’t know what to order, the maitre 'd is more than willing to offer suggestions.
The prawn dish– prawns look like oversized shrimp – has a garlic saffron vinaigrette that is so well blended you can’t taste the vinegar and the garlic has no after taste.
The sherry and honey glazed Berkshire pork belly with pickled chilies and marcona almonds – another recommendation – was good enough to serve as a desert.
But these are only a small sampling of a very large menu. Small dishes run from $4 to $14, although the Fermin Iberico Ham will run you $28. Larger dishes run from $12 to $26. Chef’s tastings is a kind of sampler that allows you to order five dishes for $59. A seven course dinner will cost $85. There is an equally flavorful desert menu with offerings from $7 to $12
Raval, located at 136 Newark Avenue (201-209-1099), is open seven days a week, serving dinner and brunch (Sat & Sun only): Monday – Thursday: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday: 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturday: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The space will be available to rent for private events as well for 20-100 people. It is easily accessible by public transportation from New York City and New Jersey, just steps from the Grove Street Path Station in the new “restaurant row” of Jersey City’s burgeoning downtown business and shopping district. Street and nearby garage parking are also available.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.