Iberia sinking fast.
I've probably been to the Iberia restaurant and Iberia Peninsula restaurant a dozen times since moving to North Jersey in 2008. I love rodizio, which Iberia does very well, but I've always been unhappy with the way they nickel and dime customers and am writing this review now because it's gotten out of hand.
My visit last week was the worst dining experience I've had in a very long time. In fact, you could not pay me to subject myself or my companions to another meal like it.
I don't know whether Iberia has always been this bad and I'm just noticing or it's recently taken a turn for the worse, but customers should not be treated as we were.
The two eateries are located across the street from one another and run by the same owners. They operate identically. So, this review is really a review of both.
My party had not been seated more than a minute before we were besieged by the resident panhandlers. First, it was the guy with the camera. The moment he saw me discreetly snap a photo of my wife, who had just graduated that afternoon, he motored over to our table with an over-sized, outdated Polaroid camera and practically ordered us to buy an overpriced photo. I politely declined.
A minute later a second resident panhandler was at my side with a bunch of overpriced flowers asking if I would like to buy some for the three ladies at my table. He mocked me in front of them when I declined, repeating my "no thank you" as if it were a question.
At this point, we hadn't even ordered.
The nickel and diming doesn't stop with the flowers and the photos. There's a kind of mariachi band that travels from table to table on busy nights, making conversation impossible until you pay them to go away. There's also a little scam they play with the Sangria. It's $18 for a pitcher, but is so loaded with ice you're lucky to get two small glasses of wine out of the thing. The wait staff won't serve it to you with less ice.
You need to remember to get your parking validated or you'll be out another $5 and you also need to be careful with the rodizio. They don't allow sharing and won't let you take any meat home. You can't even take the bones for your dogs. If your date snags a bite of rodizio to see how it tastes - a fairly common occurrence - they'll hit you with a sharing charge.
That said, the food is excellent. It's salty, but it's supposed to be salty. For those who are not familiar with rodizio, it's a selection of grilled beef, chicken and pork. A grillman periodically carries a new spit of meat from table to table, pushing morsels off. I love the stuff, which costs $21 at Iberia.
However, even the rodizio delivery seems timed to ensure that little meat is actually consumed by customers at Iberia. The rodizio spits are always turning in the kitchen, which means that it should be the first entree on the table, but it's always the last.
I have never been served before my companions or even at the same time and I suspect the delay is an intentional effort to get diners to fill up on bread.
There was a Salmonella bacteria scare in January, which led to at least 35 complaints and several news stories. Hopefully, it's been resolved.
The wait staff is very attentive. The problem is that you can't get away from the resident panhandlers, who act as if they have a right to exploit you.
At one point in the evening I had to step outside to wave in some additional companions, who were searching for the place. When I returned to the table there was a rose in front of my wife and each of her two friends. The flower panhandler made a point of telling me in front of everyone that another diner had purchased them while I was outside.
I don't know about you, but nobody buys roses for my wife but me. And it seemed as if this flower peddler went out of his way to embarrass me simply because I would not fork over $15 for three of his wilted stems.
Bottom line, they nickel and dimed their way right out of my business.
BEST LOBSTER DEALS AND ALL AROUND PORTUGESE FOOD....
VERY COURTEOUS STAFF. YOU CAN RELAX AND TAKE YOUR TIME. GREAT FOR 2 OR 20....WE GO THERE EVERY 6 WEEKS OR SO, BUT TRY TO STAY AWAY ON FRI/SAT EVES @ DINNERTIME...LATER IS BETTER..AFTER 10PM. ON THOSE DAYS.
WE ALWAYS GO HOME WITH FOOD FOR ANOTHER DAY OR MORE.