Saturday, September 5, 2015

Why should lunch for two cost $81 at Legal Sea Foods in Paramus???

Melt-in-the-mouth raw ahi tuna is the star in Tuna Poke at Legal Seafoods in Paramus. This lunch appetizer was $14.95.


No other North Jersey restaurant offers the incredible variety of fresh oysters, fish and other fare than you'll find at Legal Sea Foods in Paramus.

But the restaurant is expensive, even at lunch, as we found out on Friday.

This wasn't my first visit to the Boston-based fine-dining restaurant in Garden State Plaza, New Jersey's biggest mall, so the sticker shock wasn't totally unexpected.

The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived at noon. After a hostess seated us and gave us menus and wine lists, we waited and waited for a server to take our order.

And the rolls, made in house, were truly awful.

To add insult to injury, they were served with butter, not extra-virgin olive oil.

Of course, the solution is only a few miles away in Englewood, where Balthazar Bakery turns out some of the best dinner rolls on the planet, and delivers them to restaurants.

What a concept.

Our lunch

I started with three freshly shucked oysters ($2.95 each), squeezing lemon over them, and a flight of three white wines ($9.95), which were perfect together.

I followed with an appetizer of Tuna Poke ($14.95), a Hawaiian dish made with raw ahi tuna that is pronounced "Po-kay."

Legal Seafood's version is made with diced fish and avocado. I also had a side dish of Quinoa Vegetable Salad ($6.50 for a cup).

My wife ordered her two favorite seafood dishes, a cup of Lobster Bisque ($8.50) and Legal's Signature Crab Cake ($17.95), but there was only one medium-size cake with jumbo lump crab meat. 

All of the food was delicious. Still, my wife complained the bisque had too much heavy cream in it.

Our total for food was $66.70, plus tax and a $10 tip, for a total of $81.37.

That sounds like a lot for two people to have lunch.

'Brain food'

My receipt notes "fish is brain food, be smart and eat here often," but if you truly think about it, wild-caught fish aren't expensive, so where are all the profits going?

Certainly not to the men and woman who land the fish and other seafood.

Legal Seafoods calls this cup of Quinoa Vegetable Salad with Calabrian lime dressing a premium side, and charges $6.50 for it at lunch.

My wife chose Legal's Signature Crab Cake (one medium-size crab cake), which came with a salad and a side, in this case mashed potatoes ($17.95).

Freshly shucked oysters were $2.95 each.

A cup of Lobster Bisque was $8.50. My wife liked how it tasted, but complained it was made with too much cream.

A flight of white wines, two of them from France, was $9.95. Each glass held 2 ounces. They were the perfect drink with my raw oysters.

One look at the formal setting, with lots of dark wood and wall-to-wall carpeting, should tell you not to expect fish shack prices. On the way to the bathroom, I saw bottles of Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label), an expensive French champagne, in a refrigerated case. I can't imagine how much Legal Sea Foods charges for Veuve Clicquot, which retails for $50 and up.


Legal Sea Foods, 1 Garden State Plaza, near Macy's, Paramus; 1-201-843-8483. Open 7 days.


  1. "Wild caught fish are not expensive." Explain please.

    1. I shop for fish regularly in North Jersey, both at Korean supermarkets and Whole Foods Market.

      Whole wild-caught fish is available for as little as $1.99 a pound.

      I bought a whole blue fish at Whole Foods for $3.99 a pound and had it filleted. Two nice fillets totaled about $6.

      The fishermen and women aren't getting the lion's share of that money.

      At Costco Wholesale, you can find wild-caught cod, flounder and haddock fillets for $7.99 to $8.99 a pound. During the season, wild sockeye salmon is $8.99 a pound, only a couple of dollars more than their farmed cousins.


Please try to stay on topic.