Saturday, June 6, 2015

A new chef at Wondee's Thai restaurant, other Hackensack changes

A new Asian Indian restaurant has opened on Main Street, near Mercer Street, in Hackensack, above, and a Mexican restaurant has taken over the space on Sussex Street, near Main, once occupied by John's Coffee Shop, below. Still, for dinner tonight we returned to Wondee's, one of our all-time favorites, and learned the Thai restaurant has a new owner and a new chef. The food is as good as ever.


A new owner and chef at Wondee's in Hackensack are behind recent changes in the decor, but tonight we were happy to learn the Thai food is as good as always.

On our last visit in early May -- when we were thrilled to see the old, tattered carpet covering the floor finally had been replaced -- no one told us about the change in ownership and in the kitchen.

Chef Wandee Suwangbutra and husband Tom sold the Main Street restaurant they opened in 1997, and moved their family to South Carolina, a server said.

The new chef is Air-Arisa Cabrera Katengamkam, 28, who learned to cook from working at Wandee's side in the kitchen.

Still best in Bergen

She learned well, because the Green Papaya Salad, Ocean of Garlic and the other dishes we ordered tonight were as good as they've ever been.

And that will allow Wondee's to hold onto the unofficial title of best Thai restaurant in Bergen County.

The new floor and wallpaper at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, above and below.

Som Thum, a fresh green papaya salad, has always been my favorite Thai dish ($8). The crunchy green fruit, string beans, tomatoes and peanuts swim in a spicy dressing of lemon juice, chili and ground dried shrimp.

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

Ocean of Garlic, one of Chef Wandee's specialties, is as special as ever, combining deep fried seafood, minced fresh garlic and black pepper (shrimp, mussels, bay scallops and squid) with a crunchy pickled salad ($18 with a small bowl of white rice).

Geuw Nam, wonton soup with pork and fresh cilantro ($3.50 for small, $9 for large).

Wondee's is a BYO.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700.

Open for lunch and dinner; closed Mondays. Takeout, but no delivery. BYO, parking in rear off of Camden Street. American Express cards not accepted. 

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