Restaurant Review #276: Costa Verde (South Amboy, NJ)

I’ve passed by Costa Verde a million times, usually en route to my favorite restaurant on the planet, Portuguese Manor, which is located in the next town over. Ironically enough, if you had to pick two restaurants in the area so similar to each other, it would be these. Both have been around longer than three decades. Both offer Spanish and Portuguese favorites. Both have their die-hard fan bases. I did not want this review to become a this vs. that, but it proved impossible. Since Justin and I were both working on Friday night, we decided to have Valentine’s Day the night before. Of all the places to choose from (we did want something totally new), we chose Costa Verde. We would not be disappointed.

We arrived at around 8 PM. The large dining room was dead (maybe two tables) but the bar was packed and full of good vibes. My original plan was for us to have a drink and then grab a table in the dining room, but we enjoyed the bar so much that we eventually moved to a table right next to the bar after our first drink. I also planned on having a martini before trying the sangria that they are known for. This too was nixed as their martinis were as close to perfect as I’ve experienced anywhere with prices too good to be true. I stuck to them all night, while Justin had a couple of beers along with a White Russian.

Our plans for appetizers would not be swayed. We had seen all over the internet that their garlic shrimp were the real deal. Now, being a huge fan of Portuguese Manor’s preparation, I needed to try these. We also ordered fried calamari while we browsed the menu. And speaking of the menus in the bar area, they are tablets (see bottom of post)! You do not order directly from them, but each item comes with a small picture which enlarges with a full description upon touching it. It was kind of funny to see this place not exactly known for change so with the times.

The shrimp arrived looking identical to what I get at the “other place”. Same garlicky oil, same metal dish. Same large loaf of bread on the side. While Costa Verde’s bread was pretty average, I could not tell much of a difference between the shrimp, if any. They were delicious, and there was lots of oil left at the bottom to dredge my bread through. We also made a mistake by ordering the calamari, because the portion was enormous. I don’t think we finished half of it, despite them being fried perfectly. I guess we have a habit of having a few drinks and then over-ordering.

For entrees I figured I would indulge with the surf and turf while Justin had the shrimp and chicken in wine sauce. He enjoyed his, and polished off most of it, though he said the sauce was a bit salty. I thought my meal was a homerun despite my filet mignon being slightly overcooked (I ordered medium rare, and it was slightly higher than medium). But it was tender and the lobster meat popped right out of the shell and was spot-on. The accompanying chips, I would say, were better than Portuguese Manor’s—they were lighter but still crispy. The rice was flavorful and the green beans added some desperately needed color to this meal.

So, to answer the question you’re all waiting for: no, this was not better than Portuguese Manor, but it was very close in a lot of ways. I definitely want to come back, and I would stay in the bar area. Both bartenders were attentive and my martinis were actually impressive (I do not say that often). There are not many places that offer drinks at such great prices and food of this magnitude to go with it (there is also a separate bar menu with sandwiches and burgers). Obviously, sangria was their top seller based on what I saw, but I would not change a thing if I had to do it all over again. I’m glad I finally made it to Costa Verde! 4 out of 5 stars.

Costa Verde is located at 6039 NJ-35 in South Amboy, NJ.

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