|Pla Lard Prig or Deep-Fried Whole Striped Bass with Sweet and Sour Chili Sauce at Wondee's Fine Thai Restaurant in Hackensack.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
In the year or so since Chef Wandee Suwangbutra and husband Tom retired, there have been big and small changes at their popular Thai restaurant in Hackensack.
The biggest, of course, is Chef Air-Arisa Katengamkan, who was only 28 when she took over the restaurant after training by Wandee's side.
Her arrival wasn't announced, but loyal customers noticed changes in the dining room -- first fresh paint, then a new floor and faux-brick wallpaper.
In November, Wondee's (the restaurant's name is spelled differently than the chef's) began to deliver locally for the first time since opening in 1997, announcing the change on Facebook.
On Saturday night, we drove over for dinner, and noticed some smaller portions and slightly higher prices in what remains a moderately priced menu.
The takeout menu also is new.
Still, given the level of preparation, Wondee's remains the best Thai restaurant in Bergen County, if not all of North Jersey.
At the next table, a woman who said she is a long-time customer complained the pork dish she ordered wasn't available, and she said she didn't plan to return.
The restaurant also was out of coconut water, and when we ordered whole fish, the server said there was no wild sea bass or red snapper, only farmed striped bass.
Vegetarian Yom Rod Pedt, above, and Som Thum, below, two salads we've ordered many times, were served on Saturday in smaller portions, and the former is $1 more than before.
|Thome Yum Seafood Soup.|
Soup, salad and fish
We started with a spicy Thome Yum Seafood, a soup with shrimp, mussel, squid and bay scallops ($4.50 for small); and two Wonton Soups with roast pork and vegetables (also $4.50)
We shared two wonderful salads, vegetarian Yum Rod Pedt, crispy tofu in a dressing of lime juice and chili paste ($11); and Som Thum, fresh green papaya in a spicy dressing with green beans, peanuts, garlic clove, tomato and dried ground shrimp ($8).
Our whole striped bass was deep fried and served in a sweet-and-sour chili sauce for $20, a little more than before.
I ate at Wondee's for years before learning anything about Chef Wandee Suwangbutra during an interview for a 2005 newspaper article about Hackensack restaurants.
She opened Wondee's in 1997 after spending 17 years training cooks for new Thai restaurants in Manhattan.
But the new chef/owner lives her life very publicly on Facebook:
Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700.
BYO, parking lot in rear, closed Mondays.