Friday, June 26, 2015

Yo! Sushi discounts in Paramus, big meal at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack

At Yo! Sushi in Paramus, the Spicy Tuna Hand Roll is wrapped in soy paper. On Mondays, this item is reduced to $3.50 from $4.50.

Three of the four pieces in a Yo! Sushi Spicy Tuna Roll, with scallion, sesame and chili sauce, reduced to $3.50 from $4.


Yo! Sushi, which says it brings a "taste of Tokyo" to North Jersey, is most affordable on Mondays, when dozens of dishes are discounted.

The casual, conveyor-belt restaurant in Westfield Garden State Plaza, the state's biggest mall, calls the promotion "Blue Mondays."

I'm not sure that's the right name, but you can't blame something lost in the translation, because Yo! Sushi is based in England, not Japan. 

Are you supposed to feel "blue" after eating there on Mondays? 

Actually, the reference is to the small, round dishes, rimmed in blue, that the discounted food comes in.

On Mondays, all the dishes on the conveyor belt are blue, and priced at $3.50 each.

The California Hand Roll includes crab salad, avocado and sesame seeds. It's $3.50 on Mondays, $4 the rest of the time.

Filling lunch of four plates

This past Monday, I met two Japanese friends for lunch at Yo! Sushi, and we ordered a total of nine plates at $3.50 each.

Hot or cold green tea and fountain drinks, with unlimited refills, were $2.75 each.

I had four blue dishes: 

Two hand rolls and a sushi roll, all of which had rice and were very filling; and a Cucumber Sunumono Salad with mixed seaweed in sweet rice vinegar ($3.50, reduced from $4).

So, I spent $16.75 on lunch before tax and tip. That's a lot for a lunch with a few ounces of raw fish, and I probably would have been happy and satisfied with three plates.

When we asked for the check, a server miscounted the empty dishes on the table and brought us a bill for 10, but we corrected him, and got an adjustment.

The place mat at Yo! Sushi in Paramus on Mondays.

Seating is at a sushi bar or in booths.

A conveyor belt is supplemented by table service, if you press a button, which triggers an announcement in Japanese that your table needs attention.

There was no wait for a booth this past Monday.


Yo! Sushi in Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, is near Macy's and the indoor carousel. 

Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sundays to 8 p.m. Dishes are priced from $3 to $7.

Prawns with Snow Peas at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack.

Parched and starving

After sitting in a hot sun for a couple of hours, four of us arrived at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack parched, starving and without a reservation.

Even though this was Wednesday before 8 p.m., the popular BYO was packed, and we had to wait for a table.

My son said he was famished, having not eaten all day as he prepared for his high school graduation.

I had my heart set on a celebratory meal, such as Lotus Cafe's price-fixed, six-course dinner for four ($69), but my son wanted beef, shrimp and soft-shell crabs, and they weren't on that menu. 

So, I ordered three Wonton Soups ($2 each), an appetizer of Calamari with Salt & Pepper ($8.95), Prawns with Snow Peas ($16.95), Beef with Mustard Greens and Chili ($14.95), a special of Soft-Shell Crabs in Ginger Scallion Sauce ($22.95) and Chinese Broccoli with Fresh Garlic ($9.95).

Two of us had brown rice.

Everything was delicious with the can of Guinness Stout I sipped, but we hardly touched the broccoli, and took most of it home.

Calamari with Salt & Pepper is filled with delicious slices of fresh garlic and a few hot peppers.

A Soft-Shell Crab special in a Ginger Scallion Sauce was cut into small pieces that were easy to eat with chopsticks.

Brown rice is available at no extra charge.


Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack (in the Home Depot Shopping Center).

Open 7 days, BYO, free parking in large lot. Free delivery within 3 miles and with a minimum of $12.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fresh wild Alaskan salmon with roasted green salsa and garden herbs

Fresh Wild Copper River Sockeye Salmon with Roasted Salsa Verde and chopped herbs from the garden.

Editor's note: Cooking at home gives you the most control over what you're eating, and pricey ingredients like fresh wild salmon can be put on the table for surprisingly little when compared to a restaurant.


If you have the makings of a salad and a leftover side dish, such as organic brown rice, you can put a wild-salmon dinner on the table in 10 minutes for about $5 a person.

That's what I did on Tuesday night after my wife came home with a 1.5-pound fillet of Fresh Wild Copper River Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack ($13.99 a pound).

Costco's price for this wonderful Alaskan salmon dropped $1 a pound since it first appeared at the end of May.

I cut the fillet into five serving pieces, and added a little sea salt from a grinder. Then, they went on a pre-heated grill pan for 10 minutes.

I could have poached the fillets in Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value Roasted Salsa Verde, but decided to heat up the contents of a 16-ounce jar separately and spoon it over the salmon, when I plated it, and over the side dish of organic brown rice.

A fresh 1.5 pound skin-on fillet of wild salmon was $13.99 a pound on Tuesday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, a drop of $1 per pound.

While the salmon was grilling, I warmed up MSG-free Roasted Salsa Verde with fresh lime juice. Whole Foods Market in Paramus sells the medium-spicy green salsa in 16- and 24-ounce jars.

The serving pieces of salmon spend 8 minutes to 10 minutes on a pre-heated grill pan sprayed with oil. My All-Clad grill pan straddles two burners and I turn the heat on both of them to medium.

Another home-cooked dish is Cabbage and Salt Fish with a side of okra and Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce (Black Label).

More home cooking

Want to know what you're eating?

Buy the ingredients yourself and prepare them at home.

Two Costco Wholesale organic eggs -- fried in olive oil sunny side up -- with leftover organic brown rice, a great bread substitute. I seasoned them with Aleppo pepper, a spicier form of paprika; and chopped parsley, oregano and mint from the garden.

The chewy Armenian lavash I brought home from a new Hackensack restaurant, Lavash City Grill & Bakery, makes a wonderful snack spread with no-fat Greek yogurt and za'atar thyme mixture. I store the flat, unleavened, preservative-free bread in the refrigerator.
For breakfast, I supplemented a simple egg-white omelet I made at home with leftover falafel, tahini, muhammara and hummus from restaurants.
The last piece of wild salmon, right out of the fridge, made a great light dinner with a pile of organic greens dressed in Spanish extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
An organic-egg omelet using ingredients from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, including reduced-fat Swiss cheese and Mexican salsa. I had it for breakfast with leftover organic brown rice, fresh chopped callaloo, bottom left; and leftover Chinese broccoli with fresh garlic from Lotus Cafe in Hackensack.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

ShopRite in Englewood pulls a fast one during sale on live lobsters

The ShopRite flier doesn't say anything about a limit on live lobsters, which are on sale for $6.99 a pound with a store card.


Live lobsters for Father's Day sounded like a great idea, especially when ShopRite supermarkets in North Jersey put them on sale for $6.99 a pound.

My wife went to ShopRite in Englewood, where we once lived, and purchased four small lobsters (1 pound to 1.25 pounds) for $8.99 a pound.

Their total weight was 6.73 pounds, and the total price was $60.50.

But when I looked at the receipt she brought home, I saw the store gave her a total discount of $8 or $2 on only 4 pounds of the 6.73 pounds of lobster.

She went back on Monday, but was told there is a 4-pound limit on the sale lobsters.

Of course, no such limit is mentioned in the ShopRite flier you can see online or the one that came with the Sunday paper.

The sale on live lobsters continues through Saturday.

I've e-mailed Wakefern Food Corp., the retailer cooperative that oversees ShopRite supermarkets, which are independently owned.

The Englewood store is operated by Glass Gardens Inc., a second-generation company that owns nine ShopRites, all but one of them in New Jersey.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fast-casual Armenian restaurant in Hackensack is offering 10% off

A trio of salads at Lavash City Grill & Bakery in Hackensack, a fast-casual restaurant that promises homemade taste, but not full table service. From bottom, Olivier Salad, Armenian Salad and Roasted Vegetables.


You won't see any servers at Lavash City Grill in Hackensack, where Armenian owners have adopted the fast-casual approach of higher quality food and counter service.

You're expected to pick up a tray and stop at soup, salad and other stations before paying for your meal and sitting down, as you would at Chipotle Mexican Grill.

And tipping isn't necessary.

As a sweetener, Lavash City Grill & Bakery is offering 10% off your bill through August. 

The new restaurant offers counter service, with soup, salad, meat and other stations.

Marinated chicken and beef Lula Kebabs were served with tomato and yogurt sauces and Armenian lavash, a thin, unleavened flat bread baked daily in the restaurant.

Our Saturday night dinner

Anna Yeritsyan, owner of Lavash City Grill & Bakery, says she offers homemade soups, salads, kebabs and other dishes -- all made from scratch.

The addictive Armenian lavash, a chewy, unleavened flat bread, is made without preservatives and baked fresh daily in the restaurant.

Yeritsyan says any leftover bread is discarded, and a new batch is baked fresh the next day.

On Saturday, we stopped in after 6 p.m. for dinner, unfamiliar with the counter service, and sat down at a table.

The restaurant was empty, and the man behind the counter brought us menus.

We started with three soups, Spas or Yogurt, Three Bean and Seafood ($2.50 each for small).

Then, we asked for three small salads, including one made with 10 roasted vegetables ($5 to $7 each), but before the man could bring us plates to sample each one, two other customers came in and he started waiting on them.

Eventually, my wife and mother-in-law ordered three, long Lula Kebabs -- two ground chicken, one ground beef -- served with two sauces and lavash ($26).

And each of us had a Carrot Apple Pear Smoothie made with juice, milk and ice ($4 each).

We enjoyed our dinner, despite the service problems, and I'd return just for the wonderful soups, salads and bread.

Take home leftovers

I asked the man to pack up leftover kebabs and the side dish of pilaf he forgot to serve us, and I also asked for small containers of hummus and muhammara ($1.50 each).

I also wanted lavash, and was given four unusually large sheets of the oven-blistered flat bread at no extra charge.

At home, I've made a couple of smoked wild salmon wraps, using the irresistible lavash spread with hummus, muhammara and tahini. Delicious.

Spas or Yogurt Soup.

Seating is along one wall, opposite the service counter.


Lavash City Grill & Bakery, 331 Main St., Hackensack; 201-464-5445.

Counter service. Open 7 days, BYO. Metered parking and a free lot for shoppers nearby.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

From the roar of the Great Falls to a bustling Middle Eastern bazaar

Paterson's Great Falls, now part of a national park, is a major tourist attraction in a city that also boasts a bustling neighborhood of Middle Eastern and Turkish restaurants and bakeries.


If like me you hate traffic noise and all of those annoying motorcycles, I've found a roar both of us can live with.

On a visit to Paterson's Great Falls, you'll witness the power of Mother Nature and hear the glorious roar of falling water, which completely drowns out the human cacophony.

Then, you can drive a couple of miles to the city's South Paterson neighborhood for a snack of freshly prepared falafel, and to shop in Fattal's, where you'll find bread, pastries, meat, olives and olive oil, shelves of groceries and even gold bracelets.

Fattal's Spinach & Cheese Pies have no artificial ingredients, and they freeze beautifully.

Good food, free parking

Fattal's isn't the only Main Street store with free parking, but the lot is one of the biggest and on the weekends, a tall man acts as part guard, part traffic cop, directing you to a free space and helping you back out when it's time to leave.

After I visited the Great Falls on Saturday, I stopped at Fattal's for 18 cans of Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce (99 cents each) and a tray of Spinach & Cheese Pies ($8.99).

I also picked up a half-gallon of Ayran Original Yogurt Drink, which has a lower sodium content than competing brands ($5.49).

On the next block, I went into Salah Edin Middle Eastern Restaurant and ordered $4 worth of falafel balls (7 for $1) and a small container of tahini sauce ($3).

I had to wait about 15 minutes while they were prepared, but when I got to my car, I ate two of the piping hot falafel dipped in tahini.

I could taste them all the way home.

Lunch spot

If you want more than a falafel snack, Aleppo Restaurant at Main and Thomas streets serves an array of Syrian specialties.

Three of my favorites are lentil soup; muhammara, a spicy dip made of sweet and hot red peppers, and the chopped Arabic Salad. 


Great Falls National Historical Park, 72 McBride Ave., Paterson. National Park Service Welcome Center open 7 days.

Fattal's, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125. Open 7 days, free parking lot.

Salah Edin Middle Eastern Restaurant, 995 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-225-0575. Open 7 days. Credit-card minimum is $10.

Aleppo Restaurant, 939 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-977-2224. Open 7 days. Call for hours during the holy month of Ramadan, which ends July 17. No alcohol allowed. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Armenian grill in Hackensack, good buys at Maywood's Market

Armenian lavash is a soft, thin, unleavened flat bread. The large menu at Lavash City lists wraps made with the bread and many other dishes.

Editor's note: Today's post includes a new restaurant on Main Street in Hackensack, good buys at a premium supermarket in Maywood and a so-called farmers market I haven't patronized for years.


The newest restaurant on Main Street in Hackensack is an Armenian grill that offers the usual kebabs as well as dozens of homemade soups, salads and cold appetizers.

Lavash City Grill & Bakery, which opened a couple of weeks ago at 331 Main St., serves lunch and dinner in a completely renovated space.

Armenian cuisine is said to have strong ties with Turkish, Georgian and Persian cooking.

The restaurant offers kebabs, shawarma, rotisserie chicken and pilafs.

Owner Anna Yeritsyan says she prepares soups, salads and other dishes "from scratch."

"Nothing comes from cans."


Lavash City Grill & Bakery, 331 Main St., Hackensack; 201-464-5445.

Open 7 days for lunch and dinner, BYO, parking at meters and in free lots for shoppers nearby.

"No store has this price," boasts a Maywood's Marketplace sign with rough wedges of aged Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Italy, sometimes referred to as the "King of Cheeses" (the name is misspelled on the sign).

Maywood's Marketplace

I got a Maywood's Marketplace flier with the newspaper, and the cover showed a "super special" on Parmigiano Reggiano, the crumbly aged cheese from Italy that is one of my favorites.

Eaten out of hand, with fruit or in a salad, this cheese, made with part-skimmed milk, is hard to top.

At $9.77 a pound, the price undercuts even Costco Wholesale. In fact, the Hackensack warehouse store was out of the cheese last week.

I stopped at the Maywood market on Thursday and picked up wedges of the aged cheese, selecting two that had rind only on the end.

Others had rind on two sides.

When I got the wedges home, I cut them into smaller chunks, and found the cheese soft, crumbly and full of flavor.

Some cooks dice the rind and put it in their pasta sauce for added flavor, but it doesn't completely dissolve.

Wine, corn and salmon

I also bought three bottles of wine from Italy -- Il Carnevale di Venezia Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio -- at $4.99 each.

Five ears of fresh corn were $2.

I noticed the flier also offers wild king salmon for $13.99 a pound, another good buy that beats Costco, which was selling those fillets for $16.99 a pound just last week.

The sale prices in Maywood are good through June 24.

Part of the produce section at Maywood's Marketplace, one in a dwindling number of small, premium supermarkets in Bergen County. Another is Cafasso's Fairway Market on Anderson Avenue in Fort Lee.


Maywood's Marketplace, 78 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8361.

Open 7 days, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Parking lot. 
Web site: Worth the detour

The Giant Farmers Market is at Main and Berry streets in Hackensack. The parking lot is behind the store, on River Street.

The Main Street entrance is far from appetizing. I stopped patronizing this store years ago after finding much better quality at H Mart, the chain of Korean supermarkets in Little Ferry, Englewood, Fort Lee and Ridgefield.

The floor in front of the fish counter and in other parts of the store is dirty or cracked or both. The credit-card minimum for fish is $10. In the rest of the store, the credit-card minimum is $5.

A sign with bags of apples offers a so-called special on sweet peppers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

California peaches, Costco rebates, cooking bargain dishes at home

Large California peaches from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack and smaller ones from ShopRite in Paramus, upper right, never ripened after we brought them home.
Grilled fresh Wild Copper River Sockeye Salmon from Alaska with Pesto and a side of Organic Whole Wheat Shells, but no grilled peaches. The skin-on fillets were $14.99 a pound on Tuesday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

The Costco Wholesale cash rebate I received this week is about $245, more than double the $110 I pay for an annual executive membership. This check is in addition to several hundred dollars in rebates from American Express, which issues the Costco credit card.


We had our hearts set on preparing grilled Fresh Wild Salmon with Pesto and Ripe Peaches, but fruit from drought-stricken California didn't cooperate.

Today, my wife got a full refund of $9.99 for a 5-pound box of large California Peaches she purchased at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on June 9.

Two of the four smaller California Peaches I bought at ShopRite in Paramus for $1.69 a pound are on my kitchen counter and look like they'll rot before they ripen.

I sprayed oil on a grill pan that covers two burners of my stove, and allowed it to warm up over medium heat before adding the salmon skin side down, above, covered with fresh lime juice and a little sea salt. Total cooking time was 10 minutes, the same amount it took to cook the organic whole wheat shells in boiling, unsalted water.

When the fillets firmed up, I flipped them.

Aleppo pepper, fresh herbs from the garden and Costco's Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto were added at the end.
I finished my dinner with a salad of green-leaf lettuce from the garden.

Local and not so local

I'm all in favor of eating local, but my salmon dinner tonight brought together ingredients from Alaska (the fish), California (the red wine I drank), Italy (basil in the prepared pesto and organic whole wheat pasta), Spain (extra-virgin olive oil for my salad), and Syria or Turkey (ground Aleppo red pepper).

For the pasta dressed in Costco's Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto with added pine nuts, I used Whole Foods Market's 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Shells from Italy ($1.49), but ignored the listed cooking time of 14-15 minutes.

They were al dente in 10 minutes.

My salad contained green-leaf lettuce from our garden, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and I also accented the fish with chopped oregano, mint and parsley we grew.

An egg-white omelet stuffed with smoked wild Alaskan salmon, shredded cheese and pesto.

Costco's 100% egg whites, basil pesto and smoked wild salmon are all sold under the Kirkland Signature label, the house brand, which usually signals premium quality.

Sockeye two ways

On Tuesday, along with a fresh sockeye fillet, my wife picked up a pound of Costco's wonderful smoked wild Alaskan salmon, sliced in two half-pound pouches ($15.99).

Even though it is previously frozen, this fish is silken when eaten out of hand or rolled up with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese, dipped in Dijon mustard if you like or stuffed with salad greens.

I also use it to fill egg-white omelets, adding pesto and fresh herbs from the garden.

Costco cash rebates

The 2% cash rebate check I received this week from Costco Wholesale ($244.99) was the third this year.

Two checks containing several hundred dollars came from American Express' True Earnings credit card for purchases at Costco, restaurants, gas stations and other stores.

My executive membership costs $110 annually.

Fresh whole red snapper were on sale for $4.99 a pound on Sunday at H Mart in Englewood, a discount of $3 a pound. Mustard greens also were on sale for 99 cents a pound.

My wife cut up two wild red snappers weighing a total of more than 5 pounds, and seasoned and pan-fried them before pouring hot vinegar, sweet pepper, onions, garlic and pimento berries or allspice over the fish.

I sauteed two 5-ounce packages of triple-washed Organic Baby Spinach, Bok Choy and Kale on their expiration date with olive oil and sake, then used them as a side dish or to stuff an egg-white omelet, above. The packages were on sale for 99 cents each at the International Food Warehouse in Lodi.

Greens and sweets for breakfast: Leftover mustard greens with chopped fresh garlic, fresh callaloo with sweet peppers, and sauteed arugula, all served with mashed and baked sweet potatoes. A 5-ounce package of pre-washed arugula was on sale last week for 99 cents at the International Food Warehouse.