Aug 29, 2019

Europa South

By Lori Draz

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This month we traveled to Point Pleasant Beach, skipping the crowded waterfront spots to visit an evergreen: Europa South. With its near-40-year history, Europa South is one of the area’s few authentic Portuguese places, and its success and customer satisfaction is evident. I have a soft spot for these kinds of places that don’t pay honor to trends. They just put their head down, stay true to the formula and endure in a fickle industry. Europa South feels mature, and that means you can relax. The chef and staff knows what to do. Our evening was delicious on every level from the food to the fellowship and the cocktails, too.

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There are steps up and down to the lounge and the dining room, but only a few. The interior is made of brick and dark wood with visible wine racks and dressed in warm colors, easy to settle into and enjoy the complimentary basket of bread and dish of olives which we nibbled on as we ordered three appetizers.

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The first is a house specialty, a can’t-miss Shrimp in Garlic dish. We also ordered Clams Portuguese, which are cooked with garlic, lemon, white wine, olive oil and cilantro. Our third was the sautéed, sliced Spanish Chorizo cooked in its own juices.

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All three were really good and generous in size. I was not a big fan of chorizo, but I must admit I loved them; in fact they may have been my favorite. The high quality of the ingredients they use is obvious in each bite.

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Time for our entrées. Diner one selected one of their signature dishes called Shrimp Europa. It’s jumbo shrimp that are sautéed in butter and flambéed with brandy and sherry. The shrimp are served with mushrooms, sautéed onions and green and red peppers in Espanola sauce, which is a rich, brown sauce, based in one of Auguste Escoffier’s five classic French mother sauces. Their Spanish version of this mother sauce was extremely well-done. It was robustly flavored without being overpowering, and the shrimp seemed quite content to share the plate with this earthy taste. She was impressed with the complex flavors.

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Diner two chose Surf And Turf. It’s a predictable but satisfying combination of a 5-ounce pan-seared filet mignon paired with a broiled 8-ounce Brazilian lobster tail, with lovely plating that included sautéed vegetables and roasted potatoes. She was happy with her entrée and remarked that the beef was well-seasoned and the lobster was tender and juicy.

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Diner three went with a Spanish and Portuguese classic: paella. They offer two varieties. The first, Paella Valenciana, includes chicken and chorizo, but since we had sausage as an appetizer, he chose the Paella Marinera, which is an all seafood version. It comes with lobster, shrimp, mussels, calamari, clams and scallops (quite a netful) simmered with onions, olive oil, peppers and saffron rice with peas. Served in a special paellera, it makes a bold visual statement and the flavors back up the drama. Our diner was impressed that each fish was cooked just right and he commented that all the flavors were independent yet well-blended.

I tried Lamb Portuguese, which is a 14-ounce rack of lamb served over a bed of crispy Spanish potatoes. Each corner of the dish was anchored with dollops of mashed potatoes, topped with a black olive and the whole dish was drizzled in a garlic-infused sauce and a slice of ham. Cooking lamb just right takes real control, and this chef hit the nail on the head. It was a tender, tasty treat to look at and to eat.

Europa South has a number of traditional Portuguese dishes for the purists who are wistful for a trip to Newark’s Ironbound district. It is also one of the few places anywhere in the area where you can order Leitao a Bairrado, a whole roast suckling pig. It’s a special occasion dish that needs a week’s notice. It’s served whole and after the cameras stop, it is carved for the table.

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Time for the desserts. We tried the carrot cake and the peanut butter cup cake.

Rather than a menu, the desserts are displayed on a tray, and we chose two really good ones. The desserts were not shyly sized, so sharing is in order. The carrot cake was moist, dense and spicy, almost like a Spanish bar, and the frosting was a butter cream dream. Good as it was, I really liked the peanut butter cake, and I’m not that big a fan of chocolate. It was deeply flavored, and the heavy chocolate base was the perfect foundation for the mousse peanut butter crown. The combined tastes filled your mouth with flavor on each bite. The coffee was good, too.

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Europa South has a generational energy, clearly earned from confidently serving so many meals over the years. There were families, children, young couples and seniors, and everyone was happy.

Europa South has a happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 pm to 7 pm with $1 to 2 off selected beers, wines and spirits. The offer half-priced bottles of wine on Mondays and Thursdays and $3 pints of Estrella Damn and Super Bock Beers on Tuesdays. On Wednesday, it’s half pitchers of sangria, and Friday is $6 specialty cocktail of the day.

Cost – moderate to high

What we liked – The established, confident, time-tested vibe. The warm Iberian colors, the comfy chairs, the good acoustics, the well-made drinks and sangrias, the big portions, big menu and the quality ingredients.

What could be better – Maybe a ramp for those with mobility issues.

We give it 4 and three quarter J’s

Europa South is located at 521 Arnold Ave. (corner of Route 35 South) in Point Pleasant Beach. 732-295-1500. The dining room is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:30 am to 11 pm and Sunday from noon to 9 pm. The bar and lounge are open until 1:30 am on Friday and Saturday.