Sunday, August 30, 2015

A reinvigorated Wondee's, dayboat seafood at Simply Vietnamese

Air-Arisa Katengamkam, 28, is the new chef at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, a popular BYO on Main Street in Hackensack. 


The new chef at Wondee's in Hackensack continues to spruce up the dining room of the popular Thai restaurant, and turn out the same great food as her predecessor.

In the last 10 years, I've tried only two other Thai restaurants in Bergen County, but I always return to Wondee's, a BYO that has the perfect balance of delicious food and reasonable prices.

Chef Air-Arisa Katengamkam, who trained at the side of Wondee's founder, Chef Wandee Suwangbutra, has mastered all of her specialties, including Ocean of Garlic, a dish of fried seafood paired with a crunchy pickled cabbage salad.

On Saturday, the meat eaters in my family enjoyed a small Wonton Soup with Roast Pork and Vegetables ($3.50), Shrimp Soup with Lemon Juice, Mushrooms and Chili Paste ($4), and an entree of Panang Curry with Pork ($11).

The spicy Shrimp Soup offers classic Thai accents from kaffir lime leaves, galanga (in the ginger family) and lemongrass.

Another change we noticed on Saturday is a new waiter who isn't Thai, a first as far as I know.

At Wondee's, lovers of seafood and fresh garlic rejoice over Ocean of Garlic ($18), which includes shrimp, mussels, squid and bay scallops.

Tod Mun Pla is an appetizer of chewy fried fish cakes served with a ground peanut-and-cucumber chili sauce ($7).

The new chef's version of Som Thum, a fresh, crunchy green papaya salad, includes whole garlic cloves, and a spicy dressing of lemon juice, chili and dried shrimp ($8).

The dining room at Wondee's, a BYO, has received accents of turquoise paint, above and below. Elsewhere, a wall is being prepared for photos.

The menu cover.


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

BYO, free parking in rear off of Camden Street, and metered street parking. Takeout, but no delivery. No American Express cards.

See the chef's Facebook page: 

Simply Vietnamese

Eric Morris, 34, is trying to bring more attention to the men and women who land wonderful seafood year-round along 130 miles of New Jersey coastline.

He started a wholesale business, Local 130 Seafood, to supply fresh, dayboat fish to markets and up to a dozen restaurants, including Simply Vietnamese in Tenafly, his hometown.

Two Friday nights ago, I enjoyed an extraordinary steak of Jersey shore big-eye tuna that was seared on both sides and served rare over sauteed bok choy.

The special was priced at an appealing $21.95, including brown rice.

When I spoke to Morris on the phone today, he named the fisherman and the day boat that caught the fish I ate, also called ahi tuna.

Fish supplied by Morris usually is available on weekends at Simply Vietnamese.

Our dinner included two appetizers to share, fresh Green Papaya Salad with Shrimp ($10.95), and Summer Rolls with Shrimp ($8.50).

My wife ordered Pho with Beef Balls, the classic anise-flavored Vietnamese noodle soup with its garnish of bean sprouts, lime wedge and fresh cilantro ($12), a meal in itself.

We also ordered House Noodle Soup with Ribs to go ($12.50).

At Simply Vietnamese, a special of big-eye tuna steak served rare over sauteed bok choy.


Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly; 201-568-7770. BYO, free street parking. 

Local 130 Seafood, Somewhere with Fish, New Jersey shore; 201-665-6113.

Web site: Dayboat fish from American fishermen

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