There are days that you plan around elegant lunches; taking off from work and getting a glass of wine to specially remember a wonderful meal.
Then, there are days when you are in New Jersey and stop in at the one place that seems to be open.
Mediterranean Chateau isn’t the type of place I usually seek out. It has a vaguely bar mitzvah feel with its cavernous spaces, bar area in the front, and 1980s linen tablecloths. It was empty when we arrived, but quickly filled up with ladies who lunch, suburb style.
Don’t laugh…that day, I was one of those ladies. Minus the wine spritzer.
And I loved it.
Beneath the cheesy feel, however, lays some very good Portuguese food. Take a look:
This famous Portuguese soup is as homey and familiar as clam chowder. A thick, creamy soup that isn’t at all gluey, is laced with tender kale ribbons, soft hunks of salty sausage, and potatoes. It isn’t overtly meaty or bitter from the kale. It’s just the thing you want on a nippy fall afternoon, with a freshly baked soft sourdough roll form the breadbasket.
I didn’t even need that wine spritzer…I was already feeling high.
If you have ever had breakfast in Hawaii, you will recognize this wonderful, garlicky sausage as linguica. The kind served here is from a local butcher and it’s some of the best I have had on the east coast – soft, pleasantly greasy, crisp on the outside and savory inside. The rounds are fried and served with hot pickled vegetables that are not unlike giardiniera. The bright, vinegary pickles cut right though the sausage’s fat and the plate is a wonderful appetizer. Bacalao Portuguese style
Beware of bones. I was warned, but I ignored. That’s all I have to say about this dish that, while tasted wonderful, was so riddled with bones that I could barely get a bite without having to pick them out of my teeth.
That’s too bad because the flavor is spot on. A bright, garlicky, onion-y tomato sauce with tiny, creamy potatoes and flaky, mild cod. It could have been great. In fact, I am going to try to recreate it at home.
I can’t say that the Chateau Mediterranean is a “must visit,” but it did open my eyes - Portuguese food is awesome! And the service was great and it was – wait for it – really, really cheap. NYC has ruined me – I forgot that normal people can have a 3 course meal for $20 some places in this country!
Sometimes the only place that is open is the only place that you would want to go, anyway.