Sushi and Tapas… in the same room, right in our backyard? Hmmm.. this is something I needed to check out….
Manu Tapas Bar & Sushi Lounge
90 Ferry Street
Newark, NJ 07105
(973) 465-5600 (map it)
So for a good year I would watch the construction of this spot over on Ferry Street. I didn’t know what the new marvelous place would be: A white castle? An office building? A teleportation center that would instantly take me to Happy Hour anywhere in the world? Well… sorta kinda almost the latter as when it was finally built, I find myself staring at a sign that says Tapas Bar and Sushi Lounge… Instantly, I thought can we handle a place that serves TWO uber-trendy foods and their respective trendy crowds? There was only one way to find out…
On With The Review!
Food for palates of both sides of the hemisphere.
Very unique building with inner courtyard feel in the layout
A menu that stands out from other locations
Well, at Manu, they do put their money where their sign is. You open up the menu and you get yourself an assortment of Sushi and Tapas to choose from. You have your standard tuna/salmon/California roll assortment coupled with specialty rolls such as the Incredible Roll, Spicy Girl and . For tapas, you have the standard Shrimp in Garlic (Which I think must have become a law to have on a restaurant menu in this neighborhood) to Panko Crusted Scallops. No complaints here as there is enough to let you try something new or stay safe with an ole reliable. They also have a full bar at your disposal which includes a few specialty drinks such as fresh strawberry martinis.
The tapas were quite tasty. This last time I ordered the panko crusted scallops and I was impressed. They were seared perfectly and the lightly toasted panko crumb coating gave them an excellent texture/crunch that I will be sure to recreate back at the home lab. The added shaved almonds on top took it to a flavor place! The sushi was fresh and just about what you would expect from a respectable sushi place. However, I do admit that some of the special rolls basically seemed like the following theme “Get Fish, Add some kinda Mayo”. I was hoping for more of a “I can’t believe this mix of ingredients taste so good” kind of feeling.. oh well… Don’t expect anything crazy specialty sushi-wise, but do expect to try at least one or two different flavor mixtures. I wished they used a little less mayo and more unorthodox ingredients (Heats of Palm? Puffer? Sardines?). I had the Incredible Roll and it was savory, a little heavy and I had to get used to the mayo-based sauce. So in all honesty TAPAS > SUSHI… the hunt for the blockbuster sushi place in this neighborhood continues… Manu’s drink selection however… very … very… very… tasty…*hiccup*!
Now … I’ve eaten some expensive sushi in my days… Manu unfortunately, ranks up there. Their specialty rolls are a bit on the pricey side for this area and just how “special” they are. It’s not like they have puffer fish on the menu that justifies a state-of-the-art chef behind the bar. However, to offset this, they do have Half-Price Sushi on Tuesdays as of this post which is a good way to test out the menu and find your fav you would like to pay full price for later in the week. The tapas menu items were much more reasonably priced which is great for you non-raw eaters. Drink prices however are pretty much on par with the area and no issues there – barflies rejoice!
The staff here was very courteous and intelligent (meaning: no blank stares if you ask for anything off-center). They greeted you well, looked professional and at made you feel as if they have everything under control. Friendly, kind and personable.
Inconsistent. Some days I swear I felt like walking into the kitchen and making my food myself… other days, perfect timing. I am still trying to figure out if there is some sort of “A-Team, B-Team” situation going on here or maybe I should start wearing the same clothes I used when I got the fast service? It won’t ruin your day, but it could kill your lunch hour.
Ambiance and Crowd:
Lots of locals and office types. I saw a healthy assortment of men and women from all nationalities and ethnicity. Since this is a lounge, the restaurant / food crowd switches up a little younger once we get towards the evening. At night, Manu brings on a DJ and you mostly have a bunch of people enjoying night Iberian style (food, drinks and being merry). The layout of the building is probably Manu’s greatest feature. A 2nd floor balcony, an exterior patio, sidewalk tables, booths, tables and a bar.. I mean there is something here for everyone. You enter and quickly gain a feeling that you’re sitting somewhere in Southern Europe socializing with the locals.
About 3 blocks from Penn Station on Ferry Street. Not hard to get to, not easy to miss.
H-Cane’s Final Spin:
At first I was getting very tired of the inconsistent service but I have to admit that way the place is constructed and the vibe is very very good. The food is fresh even if it doesn’t push the limit of culinary “wowism”. If sushi isn’t your thing, stay well my friend, the tapas are very good. If you have been to Japan, you probably would fall asleep on the sushi menu from boredom. I say grab a date, grab a group of friends and hang out on the second floor balcony so you can feel like your staring down on the peasants below… while sloppily sipping on your ‘tini… GO!
H-Cane’s Question of the Day: Where will you be dining during the Portugal Day Feast next weekend? Leave your answer along with your input on today’s review in the comment section below!