Down Neck Comes Down the Shore in 1979
Back in 1979 there were a handful of restaurants in Point Pleasant Beach with the newcomer being Europa South. It was well received because there was no other Spanish and Portuguese style restaurant south of Ferry St. in Newark’s Ironbound district. Over the years the restaurant became the place to go for large portions prepared perfectly with fresh ingredients. Countless anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions were celebrated by the large following of locals and visitors.
Today the restaurant scene in the Point Pleasant Beach has grown to be a year-round dining destination with an eclectic mix of restaurants up and down Arnold Avenue, on the side streets and on the water. With all the new comers and a few originals, Europa South has not only survived, it has thrived. Yes, it does still have the 1970s style Spanish décor with its red leather, dark wood, stained glass, wrought iron and portrait of a beautiful nameless woman peering down from the wall. But who would want it any other way? If it is not considered classic yet, it is should be.
New Talent Takes the Wheel at Europa South
Europa South Restaurant and Tapas Bar was taken over less than two years ago by Chris Stevens. So far, to the pleasure of the many regulars who have been coming here for two generations to fill up on paella, steaks and large lobsters followed by a Café Europa, he has changed little. One exception is the opening of a second restaurant in the same building known as Amendment 21 after the amendment that repealed prohibition.
Our visit three weeks ago was the first time we have dined here since the change of leadership although we have stopped in at the bar a few times. We were not disappointed. There were four of us and we took a while to decide what to order due to the large selection of menu choices including Spanish and Portuguese classics and chef’s specials and some very tempting specials of the night. Our server was a seasoned professional who was excellent in answering any questions we had. I think her name was Dana but my wife says it was Christine. One name was from my memory and the other from my wife calling the next day to ask. Next time we go back I will find out and give proper credit.
When you are first seated in the dining area, Sangria is immediately suggested. We needed to catch a faster elevator to the upper level, so we went with a martini which is served in an individual shaker. A very nice touch and easier for the server than to balance a full martini glass.
The garlic shrimp appetizer was our first hit. In a Spanish / Portuguese restaurant, if garlic and shrimp are together in one dish, order it. I tried to get a picture before it began to disappear. I did get most of it as you can see. My wife ordered the king crab soup which is spicy but well balanced. The bisque-like reddish base only hints of tomato. To me it is reminiscent of a conch chowder, I once had in Nassau. Where the name is derived, I am not sure. It does not look like it is actually made from king crab but it very well may be. It is certainly savory and satisfying.
For the main dishes my wife enjoyed Shrimp Europa which is made from shrimp, sautéed in butter and flambéed with brandy and sherry with peppers and onion in Española sauce. As with many of the dishes it is served with a yellow rice. There was no shortage of shrimp which, I must mention, were cooked to perfection. Just barely opaque and not curled too tightly. The shrimp were very tender and accompanied perfectly by the sauce. Our friends had the garlic chicken with Spanish potatoes. They gave the dish very high marks. If you never had Spanish potatoes, you are really missing something. Imagine a fresh homemade potato chip that still has a little flexibility. They can be addicting.
I ordered a special that night which was local black sea bass in a lemon caper sauce. I was happy to see that the chef was utilizing such an overlooked but delectable fish. It is a sustainable catch and prized in Chinatown, but for some reason chefs around here shun it in favor of imports like grouper and Chilean Sea Bass, the latter of which is from a greatly depleted fishery. We have a fishing fleet right in Point Beach so why not support them? OK, time to get off of my soap box and write on.
The black sea bass was served as two sizable filets with the tasty crisp skin left on. The lemon caper sauce with its tart brininess did over power the delicate flavor of the fish just a bit but it was still very enjoyable.
No Room for Dessert? Have it Anyway
After we finished dinner a young gentlemen came by with a platter of temptation. He pointed to described every decadent offering to us. I was the only one lacking will power and chose the crème brȗlée. Every time I order this dessert I compare the to the one I had at the original Le Cirque made by Jacques Torres many years ago. This one was every bit as good or possibly better. When my spoon broke through the caramelized sugar you could hear it crack before plunging into a pool of rich smooth custard. I am still thinking about it weeks later. It was that good. My wife ordered a café Europa, which is made with coffee, Cuarenta y Tres (Licor 43) topped off with whipped cream. We have stopped in at the bar on cold nights for this treat. I highly recommend it all year-round.
Europa South’s menu offers a mix of steaks, chops and 2 to 5 pound lobsters as well as traditional Spanish and Portuguese dishes and specialties of the house. They even offer a whole roast sucking pig ordered in advance or as single orders on the first Saturday of each month. Aside from Sangria there is a fine choice of Spanish wines by the bottle and glass as well as many different beers. The bar is a very popular place, where guests can enjoy live music on certain nights which can be very busy, but the choice of tapas and eclectic cocktails are worth any inconvenience waiting for a seat. If you are looking to try a caipirinha after watching the Summer Olympics this year, you can try it here.
When I wrote an article for this blog titled the “Seven Best Restaurants in Point Pleasant Beach” over a year ago, I did not include Europa South for the reason it had just changed owners. There was nothing for me to use to make a rational choice. However if I wrote the piece today Europa South would definitely be one of them. I may just go back and update that article. Meanwhile we are looking forward to our next visit. There are so many experiences waiting to be enjoyed. One guarantee is that no one will leave here unsatisfied.
Europa South is located on the corner of Rt. 35 South and Arnold Ave. in Point Pleasant Beach. It is family friendly. Free parking is available in the large municipal lot, behind Borden’s across Rte 35. They are opened for lunch and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended especially on weekends.