Saturday, May 2, 2015

Wondee's -- Bergen County's best Thai restaurant -- gets a new floor

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles on Main Street in Hackensack.

Editor's note: What I thought was a technical problem with my smart-phone camera, which was producing gauzy photos, turned out to be a dirty lens. But I am still have periodic trouble uploading images to my computer via Google+.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I chuckle when I see an article or review of a new Thai restaurant in Bergen County, and just turn the page.

Chef Wandee Suwangbutra remains at the top of her game in the kitchen of Wondee's, which she and husband Tom opened in 1997 on Main Street in Hackensack.

But in recent years, the rented space fell into disrepair, especially the dark-blue dining room carpet.

Tonight, when I walked in the back door off of the parking lot, I immediately saw a new dark-wood floor had finally replaced the worn and torn carpet, which was patched with tape in places.

Our server said the new floor was installed about two weeks ago.

Wondee's has a full menu of fresh whole fish, seafood, pork, chicken, beef, noodles and soups, and spiciness can be varied.

But don't make the mistake of asking Wandee to prepare your food "Extremely Spicy."




The new wood floor at Wondee's through a dirty lens.

An appetizer of Tofu Tod, deep-fried tofu served with a sweet chili sauce and ground peanuts ($7).

A new item, Shrimp Spring Rolls, were beautifully fried ($5.50). I also had a small bowl of Thome Yum Koong, a spicy shrimp-and-mushroom soup flavored with lemon juice, chili paste, kaffir lime leaves, galanga and lemon grass ($4).

A vegetarian selection is Yum Rod Pedt, a salad of crispy tofu served with shredded carrot, onion, orange and apple in lime juice and a mildly spicy chili paste ($10).
Details

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main Street, Hackensack; 201-883-1700. Open for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays.

BYO, free parking in rear off of Camden Street. Take-out, but no delivery. No American Express cards.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

At H Mart, fish dinner for four can cost under $10, free seafood samples

On Sunday, my wife baked five fresh wild-caught whole porgy with olive oil, fresh lime juice, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers and fresh garlic.

Our side dish was cabbage sauteed with sweet peppers.


Editor's note: Today, I discuss food shopping at H Mart in Little Ferry, ShopRite in Paramus and Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, and the meals you can assemble with ingredients from them.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I never know what I'll find when I shop for fresh fish on the weekends at the H Mart in Little Ferry or how low the price will be.

On Sunday, I found whole porgy nestled in ice for only $1.79 a pound, and five of them rang up at $8.40.

While I waited for the fish to be cleaned and scaled, I chatted with other customers and went over to tables offering free seafood samples.

I also picked up nearly 2 pounds of Gaichoy or Baby Mustard Greens on sale for only 78 cents a pound with a store card.

Today, my wife prepared them for dinner with olive oil, chopped fresh garlic, sea salt and Organic No-Salt Seasoning, all from Costco Wholesale.


At H Mart in Little Ferry, free weekend seafood samples are conveniently placed near the fresh-fish counter to give customers something to do while their catch is being cleaned. Samples include seafood pancakes, foreground; boiled octopus, smoked farmed salmon and broiled eel.

The Korean supermarket at 260 Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry also sells a wide array of dried seafood, above and below, and I expect many of them are for use in soups or stews.

Customers can only hope H Mart management will decide to renovate what is the shabbiest store in the chain.


ShopRite in Paramus

At ShopRite in Paramus on Tuesday, I bought a large Golden Pineapple for $2.99, and two 15-ounce containers of Smart Balance Light Spread made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil on sale for $2.99 each, a discount of 60 cents.

Smart Balance has gone on sale for as little as $1.89 with a store card, but I haven't seen that repeated in many months.



At ShopRite in Paramus, 26-ounce bottles of Colonna Pasta Sauce are on sale for 69 cents each, but the Garlic & Onion and Meat-Flavored contain high fructose corn syrup. Vodka Sauce lists heavy cream as the second largest ingredient. I'll pass on all three.

The 40-ounce bottle of Victoria Marinara is $8.49 at the Paramus ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east, but you can get two 40-ounce jars of the same sauce for $8.99 at Costco Wholesale on South River Street in Hackensack.

I continue to perfect 10-inch egg-white omelets, cooking fresh spinach in a little oil in a separate pan before transferring it to the omelet and folding it. Other ingredients include smoked wild salmon and reduced-fat sliced Swiss cheese from Costco, which also sells 100% egg whites.

A big breakfast omelet stuffed with smoked salmon and spinach, served with leftover organic brown rice and broccoli, allows me to skip lunch.
This morning, I prepared an organic whole-egg omelet with salted fish, fresh spinach and Mateo's Gourmet Salsa, the last from Costco Wholesale, above and below.

The omelet is ready to be folded.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

At Bocconi in Hackensack, a tasty dinner of vegetables, fish and wine

Grey Sole Oreganata with Shrimp and White Wine, one of two wild-caught fish entrees at Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The list of specials at Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack would please anyone who doesn't eat meat or poultry.

Vegetables, salads and shellfish appetizers are the prelude to nearly a dozen pasta and seafood entrees on the one-page listing.

On Saturday, we visited the moderately priced Italian-American restaurant for the third time, and though we had a nice dinner, saw some limitations.

A half-dozen fish entrees are offered, but only two are wild caught, grey sole and tuna.

I'm watching my cholesterol intake, and found Bocconi was less accommodating than on earlier visits when I asked the kitchen to hold the butter.

And the specials menu didn't list a small block of tangy goat cheese that came with a wonderful appetizer of beets and arugula.



Salmon Grilled Over Arugula & Cherry Tomato.


Vegetables, fish and salad

We started with appetizers of Asparagus Gratinato ($9.95) for my wife and Red Beet Carpaccio for me ($12.50).

My wife wanted wild-caught Grey Sole Oreganata ($18.95) for her entree, the dish I had on our first visit, and I chose the second wild fish, tuna, on our last visit.

So, looking for something else, I was left to pick one of the farmed fish, and I chose Salmon Grilled Over Arugula & Cherry Tomato ($20.95).

I asked for the fish to be prepared medium to medium rare, but it was delivered cooked through, though still moist.

When compared to its wild cousin, artificially colored farmed salmon isn't a very exciting fish -- raw or cooked.

At least it was a nice portion, and came with a great salad of peppery arugula, my favorite green.

The other farmed seafood offered are branzino, tilapia and shrimp. 

Details


Bocconi Restaurant, 363 Essex St., Hackensack (near Prospect Avenue); 201-342-3888. Web site: bocconifood.com

BYO. On weekends, reservations aren't necessary.

A tiny lot off Prospect means you're better off parking across Essex Street at the medical building with a Starbucks Coffee on the ground level.



An appetizer of Asparagus Gratinato with Grated Cheese and White Wine Sauce. We liked the small dish of pitted olives served with it. The waiter said the asparagus were made with only a "little" butter.

A block of tangy goat cheese crowning Red Beet Carpaccio, another appetizer, wasn't listed on the specials menu, and the price shown also was incorrect ($9.95 on the menu, $12.50 on the receipt)

Bocconi Restaurant is a BYO with about 50 seats. I brought a bottle of Italian red wine.

Crusty Italian bread comes with butter and for dipping, extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grated cheese.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

$1 bag of falafel, 99-cents sardines, 9-inch whole-wheat pocket bread

And then there were none .... Five of the original seven falafel in a paper bag were still warm when I came home. They are only $1 at Salah Edin Middle Eastern Restaurant, 995 Main St., Paterson, below, part of a Middle Eastern bazaar known as South Paterson.

Around noon on Saturday, my order of tasty falafel -- ground chickpeas mixed with parsley -- was deep fried to order.



By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I dashed out to Paterson on Saturday for a refresher course on Middle Eastern flavors after a bitter winter that kept me close to home.

My first stop was Fattal's -- which sells freshly baked pocket bread and a wide array of food and spices, even gold necklaces and bracelets -- at 975-77 Main St. 

Fattal's has its own parking lot and, on the weekends, a guard will help you find a parking space and, with gestures and waving arms, will help you back out when it is time to leave.

I stocked up on Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce, the variety that has the least sodium. I bought two dozen cans at 99 cents each (125 grams). 

I use them in pasta dishes or add them to canned-seafood salads.

I also bought a half-pound of crushed Aleppo red pepper ($6.99 a pound), perfect for garnishing egg and fish dishes.


A gallon of refrigerated Merve Ayran Yogurt Drink -- with live active cultures -- was $10.99, compared to $8.69 two years ago.




Fattal's has one of the largest parking lots in South Paterson.

Crushed red pepper is perfect for fish or egg dishes. I store it in the freezer of refrigerator.
I used Aleppo pepper this morning on an egg-white omelet stuffed with smoked wild salmon, fresh spinach sauteed in a separate pan, marinara sauce and reduced fat cheese.

King's Whole Wheat Pita is baked in Paterson without preservatives, and sold at Fattal's alongside its own bread.


This bread is impossible to resist

Even though I've been on a no-bread diet for years, I couldn't resists buying a bag of 9-inch pocket bread called King's Pita ($1.39 for six loaves).

This is a thin whole-wheat bread in the Lebanese style, perfect for wrapping or stuffing.

At home, I ate spoonfuls of leftover canned-salmon salad with sweet peppers and celery in the soft, chewy bread. Fantastic.

I can just imagine scooping up hummus with it.

The ingredients are bran, whole wheat flour, water, salt and yeast.

Bag of falafel

I asked the guard in Fattal's lot if I could leave my car there and walked over to Salah Edin Middle Eastern Restaurant on the next block for a $1 bag of seven falafel balls.

They were fried beautifully, leaving only a little oil on the paper bag. I ate two of the piping hot falafel immediately, and took the rest home for family members.

A small cup of tahini would be perfect with the delicious falafel, but then they probably wouldn't cost only $1.

My Jewish mother, who was born in Aleppo, Syria, made falafel at home not with chickpeas, but with fava beans, the way it's done in Egypt, where they are called ta'amia.

I prefer fava-bean falafel, but the only place I know that serves it is an expensive restaurant in Tenafly with an Egyptian chef/owner.