Sunday, September 1, 2013

At Aroma Espresso Bar and Simply Vietnamese

At Aroma Espresso Bar in Paramus, Shakshuka is described as a mild tomato, onion, and pepper sauce topped with 2 eggs sunny side up and parsley. The menu says it is served with tahini, but I didn't see or taste any.

By Victor E. Sasson

I had been looking forward to trying Shakshuka, a saucy egg dish from Israel that is one of the all-day breakfasts at Aroma Espresso Bar in Paramus.

But when I ordered it last Thursday, it came without the tahini sauce described on the menu -- the second straight glitch I've experienced with Aroma's food service.

The Aroma Espresso Bar at Westfield Garden State Plaza is the only New Jersey branch of an Israeli chain with other shops in Manhattan, Maryland and Florida.

The single employee I've seen in the Paramus kitchen doesn't seem up to the task of including everything described on the menu.

And the manager appears to spend a lot of his time walking around or sitting at empty tables, all the while chatting on a cellphone.

I recall ordering the Organic Quinoa Salad ($8.50), and wondering why it was so tasteless. 

I got the salad, but not the Lemon Olive Oil Dressing, which is supposed to be served on the side. 

Shakshuka is a great dish ($8.90), but why doesn't Aroma serve pita, the Hebrew word for Middle Eastern pocket bread?

A spoon is ideal for enjoying all that sauce. Still, I thought the dish could use hummus.

Corner tables at Aroma Espresso Bar.

When I got home and looked at my copy of the menu, I saw the dish is supposed to be served with tahini.

Shakshuka comes with bread and butter, but I didn't want them, and asked if I could get some veggies instead (they're listed on menu for 50 cents extra).

No substitutions are allowed, said the employee who took my order.

So, I paid $1.25 more for feta cheese, but it came in a small bowl, not sprinkled over the top of the warm eggs and sauce.

My wife enjoyed a Steak Sandwich with mayo, jalapenos, sauteed onion and red pepper, and Swiss cheese ($6.50 for half), and a 20-ounce Lemonade ($4).

"Chik chak" is an Israeli phrase meaning "pronto," "quickly" or "chop chop," but I've found the kitchen at Aroma Espresso Bar in Paramus doesn't know it.

After you place your order and pay at the register, be prepared to wait until your name is called for you to pick up your coffee or food at the counter.

Aroma Espresso Bar, 1 Garden State Plaza, Paramus; 1-201-556-1700.

Seniors get a cool reception at the AMC movie theaters in another part of the Paramus mall. Discounts on the $11.25 tickets are available only after 4 p.m. and all day Tuesdays.

Simply Vietnamese

We had no service or food problems on Saturday night at Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, one of the half-dozen Asian restaurants we return to time and again.

I love Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants for their abundance of seafood and vegetables.

At Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, a steaming bowl of Chef's Noodle Soup -- a combination of shrimp, pork, chicken, noodles and greens ($14).

On Saturday night a little after 6, Peter greeted us and told us to take any table. 

We sat in the quieter of the two dining rooms, the original one with the entrance.

Look for the word "Saigon" in red neon hanging in the window -- a vestige of the old Englewood restaurant.

Outdoor seating under umbrellas also was available. 

Peter said Chef-Owner K.T. Tran was in the kitchen, too busy to come out and say hello, so we sent her our regards.

An appetizer of Summer Rolls with Shrimp ($8.50). Translucent rice paper is stuffed with rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber and carrot, and served with a mildly spicy peanut sauce.

Grilled Pork Chops in a caramelized lemongrass sauce ($16.50).

Broiled Basa Fillet, a farmed catfish from Vietnam, is served on a bed of greens with either a sweet-spicy ginger-scallion sauce, above, or with curry coconut milk ($19.50). Brown rice is available for $2 more.

Free Shrimp Chips with a spicy dipping sauce.

Simply Vietnamese is a BYO.

Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly; 201-568-7770. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. BYO, free street parking.


  1. That looks like Chicken Parm with eggs substituted for the chicken. There is a guy on Kings Highway in Brooklyn that makes good shakshuka, he is a Yemeni Jewish guy. He is a bit pricey but he uses good ingredients and is an expert at making shakshuka and other items. The place is called Think Sweet.

  2. Thanks. I'll have to try it. That's the neighborhood where I grew up. Is the place near Ocean Parkway?

  3. Victor, yes he is about 2 blocks from Ocean Parkway. There is a really good bread bakery on the same block and there are still a good amount of Syrian stores in the area.

  4. Thanks again, Chuck. Have to visit the neighborhood soon.


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