Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Changes in the Asian food scene in Fort Lee

Fort Lee, New Jersey
Image by dougtone via Flickr
Visitors to Fort Lee will find Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Asian Indian restaurants. Mo' Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup restaurant, closed.

Editor's note: Since I wrote this in December 2011, there has been a resurgence of Japanese restaurants in Fort Lee, but Korean place still dominate the dining scene.


Fort Lee has long been the place to go for the widest range of Asian food in North Jersey, and it continues to evolve.

Some of the changes have been in response to an influx of Korean-Americans in a community that many Japanese immigrants had called home for decades.

Now, the Korean supermarket chain Han Ah Reum has opened a small market in a neighborhood of high-rises and garden apartments, and dubbed it H Mart Fresh.

The market on 16th Street, across the street from the Fort Lee Community Center, replaced another Korean market, Good Nature Supermarket, and has been open about eight months. 

Nippon Daido, a small Japanese market on the same block, is now a laundromat.

H Mart Fresh is an abbreviated version of the full-size H Mart supermarket a couple of miles away in Fort Lee's Linwood Plaza shopping center. One woman said she shopped at H Mart Fresh because she lives in the neighborhood. 

On Tuesday, I picked up two prepared items at H Mart Fresh: a trio of sleek, 10-inch-long mackerel pike for $3.99 and a Korean pan-fried omelet stuffed with seaweed for $4.99. But I couldn't find any kimbap, those addictive seaweed, vegetable and rice rolls.

The small market had a beautiful, though limited, selection of fresh whole, wild-caught fish on a bed of ice, including red snapper and croaker, and I saw a solitary eel in a seafood tank.

A Korean restaurant, New Bang's Kitchen, is down the block, at 1355 16th St. 

History of Hiura

In the 1980s, on the same block and possibly in the same space as New Bang's Kitchen, the Hiura family operated a BYO Japanese-Chinese restaurant that kept customers' sake bottles. 

A fire in an adjacent business closed the restaurant, and sushi Chef Noboru Hiura eventually relocated to Main Street in Fort Lee, where the family now has a high-end Japanese sushi restaurant called Hiura.

Several blocks away on Main Street, a pizzeria replaced a Vietnamese restaurant, Mo' Pho, which specialized in steaming bowls of anise-flavored noodle soup.

Japanese pub closes

Meanwhile, in neighboring Cliffside Park, the opening of a new Japanese restaurant, Bushido, has been delayed. The address is 671 Palisade Ave.

Bushido is replacing an authentic Japanese pub, Izakaya Don, which replaced another Japanese pub in July 2004. The pubs served food and overflowing glasses of sake.

Bushido is the latest venture of Lebanese restaurateur Charles Hamade and Chef Yoshiharu Suzuki, who operated Wild Ginger, a BYO on Englewood's Palisade Avenue, for more than 16 years.

The high-end Japanese restaurant was renamed Wild Nigiri before it closed this year, replaced by Hamade's Papa Mole Mexican restaurant.

Hamade and Suzuki likely paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Izakaya Don's liquor license.


H Mart Fresh, 1379 16th St., Fort Lee; 201-944-9009.
Parking on street or in difficult, sloping lot.

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