Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fort Lee welcomes more Asian restaurants and the return of dim sum

The only thing missing during dim-sum service at Aquarius Seafood Restaurant in Fort Lee are servers calling out the Cantonese names of the dumplings and other delights they are hawking.


I enjoyed dim sum lunches at Silver Pond for close to 15 years before the Chinese seafood restaurant ended a 25-year run on Main Street in Fort Lee.

Now, the owners of Aquarius Seafood Restaurant have completely renovated the space and brought back a dim sum menu with nearly 50 items priced from $2.95 (Small) to $9.25 (XX Large).

The servers at Aquarius roll carts around the dining room, trying to entice customers to take as many steamer baskets or plates as possible, and it's easy to order too much.

Each basket or plate usually holds three or four items.

At lunch this week, I loved the pan-fried chive cakes, shrimp rice roll, and a trio of green dumplings stuffed with spinach and a little shrimp.

When the dining room is full, the noise level is annoying high.

Aquarius also has a large Cantonese-style menu, including live fish, which Silver Pond also offered.

After Silver Pond closed, the dim sum void was filled in 2015 with the opening of Lan Garden, another Chinese seafood restaurant, at 88 Route 4 west in Ridgefield.

Lan Garden serves dim sum all day and into the night. At Aquarius, dim sum can be ordered until 3 p.m.

Spinach and Shrimp Dumplings ($4.25).

Shrimp Rice Rolls ($4.25).

Pan-fried Chive Cakes ($3.50).

Aquarius Seafood Restaurant offered a lunch special of Emperor Abalone for $55 on Monday.


Aquarius Seafood Restaurant, 230-34 Main St., Fort Lee; 201-592-8338. Open 7 days. Serves liquor. Metered parking on street or in large municipal lot.

Other new restaurants on Main Street in Fort Lee include T-Swirl Crepe, above and below.

Picnic is a Korean-owned sushi restaurant.

Yea Jip, which offers traditional Korean cuisine, is next door to Picnic, but isn't open for business yet.

Monday, September 26, 2016

At Seafood Gourmet in Maywood, fresh wild fish is everywhere you look

On the way to the dining room at Seafood Gourmet, the fish market and restaurant in Maywood, customers on Saturday passed a display of wild-caught coho salmon and other fresh fish on a bed of ice, above; and shelves of prepared seafood, including Penne with Shrimp, Broccoli and Garlic & Oil, and Hickory Smoked Trout, below.

Editor's note: This post was revised to correct the day I visited Seafood Gourmet. It was Saturday, not Thursday, as I wrote originally.


If you love fresh wild-caught seafood, you'll find a home at Seafood Gourmet, the fish market and restaurant on Maywood's bustling main street.

For our late lunch on Saturday, both me and my wife chose dishes with wild shrimp -- the only kind served in the 38-seat dining room behind the market.

I was in the mood for pasta, but got pulled this way and that by the lunch specials, including day boat sea scallops, a fritto misto; and a char-grilled trio of wild salmon, shrimp and octopus.

I picked a fourth special, Shrimp Santorini -- crunchy sauteed jumbo shrimp finished in a light plum tomato sauce, served over whole-wheat pasta and topped with feta cheese ($15).

A side salad, normally $3, was included.

My wife had Ceasar Salad with Shrimp ($12),  from the regular menu, and there was no charge for her cup of Lobster Bisque.

We also ordered takeout, Sole Stuffed with Lobster, an entree that came with rice and steamed vegetables ($16).

Fresh wild seafood, imaginative preparation, moderate prices and good service make every meal there a pleasure.

In northern New Jersey, only the sinfully expensive Legal Sea Foods in Paramus can match the quality of Seafood Gourmet. 

The whole-wheat pasta used in Shrimp Santorini was good, but organic whole-wheat pasta from Italy, such as the Luigi Vitelli brand sold at ShopRite, would be better.

Caesar Salad with Shrimp.

We shared a side of Sauteed Spinach ($5).

A side salad and a cup of Lobster Bisque were included.

The Lunch Specials menu on Saturday.

Seating is at tables for two or four, and when we walked into the dining room at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon with a half-bottle of red wine, most of them were occupied.

Seafood Gourmet is a BYO.


Seafood Gourmet Fish Market & Restaurant, 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 1-201-843-8558. Closed Sundays.

BYO, free street parking, reservations recommended for dinner, especially on weekends.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fattal's falafel, Corrado's 2-for-$10 wines, wild salmon medley and more

One of my favorite dishes growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., was my Syrian Jewish mother's okra, which she prepared with tomatoes and a tamarind sauce. Okra was the meal of the day on Thursday in the cafe at Fattal's in Paterson.   

Syrian butcher, baker, grocer, jeweler and falafel maker -- Fattal's in the South Paterson section of Paterson is all of that and more. One big plus is that the store is set back in a spacious parking lot.


The quickest way to get into an argument with the head cook in the Syrian cafe at Fattal's is to ask whether he ever makes his falafel only with fava beans.

"That's how the Egyptians make it," I said on Thursday, referring to the wonderful  ta'amia (falafel) I enjoyed many years ago on a trip to Cairo.

"And that's how my mother, who was from Aleppo, used to make it."

"I'm from Aleppo, too," the cook said firmly, adding that using only fava beans produces a falafel that is too dark inside.

So, I ordered nine falafels to go, and looking at the takeout menu later, I saw he grinds both chickpeas and fava beans with parsley, garlic and spices before frying them.

Fattal's falafel are sold in threes for a little over 40 cents each.

They are bigger, lighter and tastier than the falafel from Salah Edin, a Middle Eastern restaurant on the next block, where a bag of five falafel are only $1.

Fattal's falafel also reheats better at home.

The menu in Fatal's cafe resembles that of a full-service restaurant. 

Syrian-style pies with za'atar and other toppings, sandwiches, salads, soup, hot appetizers and a meal of the day are available for takeout or to eat there.

In Fattal's grocery section, I picked up 20 cans of Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce (99 cents each), and a half-dozen large Spinach and Cheese Pies ($8.99).

From the spice counter, I got a small container of za'atar, a dried thyme mixture ($5.99 a pound), and a larger one of crushed Aleppo red pepper ($6.99 a pound). 

Crushed red Aleppo pepper from Fattal's ($6.99 a pound) provides a mildly spicy accent on egg and fish dishes, hummus and so much more.

On Friday, I threw together falafel sandwiches at home with Fatal's pocket bread and hummus from a can, adding garlic, lime juice, extra-virgin olive oil and ground cumin.


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

Corrado's Family Affair is a large, full-service ethnic supermarket near the Clifton-Paterson border once known for low prices.

Red, white and sparkling wines from Italy and France were 2 for $10 in Corrado's liquor store. I bought six bottles of red wine, including a ventoux from France.

Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli and Rigatoni from Italy were $1.69 each at Corrado's (16 ounces) -- 40 cents more than at ShopRite in Paramus.

That's a good price, but Corrado's Tomato Basil and Arrabiata Pasta Sauces both contain added sugar.

A pint of blueberries from Argentina was $3.99. I did find peaches for 99 cents a pound, my only purchase besides wine.

Among the non-food items at Corrado's are these rugs, which were displayed outside.


Corrado's Family Affair, 1578 Main Ave., Clifton; 1-973-340-0628. Open 7 days. Website: Corrado's

A medley of fresh wild coho salmon I prepared at home with a fillet from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro ($9.99 a pound) includes chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, pitted black olives and grated cheese.

I grilled the salmon skin side down on the stove top for 4 minutes before placing the serving pieces in a large pan that held the other ingredients, a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lime juice and seasonings. The medley was ready after 7 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven.

You can buy a ready-to-cook fish-and-vegetable medley, marinated Icelandic fish and prepared seafood at The Fish Dock, 219A Closter Dock Road in Closter (1-201-564-7939; closed Sundays and Mondays). Here, I had leftovers of my wild salmon medley with organic brown rice and oven-roasted sweet green peppers from our garden.
A 2-pound bag of pre-washed Chopped Kale was only $3.89 at the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack.

This much kale with Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning (21 spices and other ingredients from around the world), sauteed in olive and sesame oils in a 10-inch nonstick pan ...

... produces this much kale as a side dish.

Also at the Costco Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack, I found a package of frozen Alaskan Pollock Burgers, which join a longtime favorite, Alsakan Salmon Burgers. The pollock burgers also are made from fillets of wild-caught fish, according to the Trident Seafood Corp. A dozen salmon burgers were $13.99 and a dozen pollock burgers were $11.49.

The ingredients of the Alaskan Pollock Burger includes 2% or less of sugar. I cooked one in the oven and slipped the burger into a warm Fattal's pocket bread with salad greens, tomato and Dijon mustard. Just wonderful.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Whenever you go food shopping, keep in mind GMOs are a big no-no

Look for this seal on packaging, if you want to avoid GMOs --genetically modified organisms -- in organic and non-organic food.


Millions of words have been written about genetically modified organisms in food, but many consumers still are in the dark about the dangers GMOs pose to them and the environment.

That's why it's important to buy organic or to look for the seal of the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit "committed to building and preserving sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices."

I've learned crops raised with genetically modified seeds involve the heavy use of pesticides and chemicals that are harmful to humans, as well as to farmland and the water supply.

Buying 100% organic, certified organic and USDA organic-labeled products is usually the easiest way to identify and avoid genetically modified ingredients. 

The U.S. and Canadian governments do not allow companies to label products "100%/ certified organic," if they contain genetically modified foods.

Still, the United States is not among the 61 countries that already have mandatory labeling of food with genetically engineered ingredients.

"The GMO Deception" is a book available online that promises to tell you "what you need to know about the food, corporations and government agencies putting our families and our environment at risk."

See the chart from the Non-GMO Project at the end of this post for other information on the battle against genetically modified seed and food.

Described as a GMO film thriller, "Consumed" is available on Netflix.

Dole 100% Pineapple Juice from the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack is labeled "NON GMO" by the company. The metal cans also are BPA free.

Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice carries the seal of the Non-GMO Project. The California-grown rice is available on

Organic baby spinach and organic spring mix, above and below, are sold at Costco Wholesale.

Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli or spirals and other shapes are available at ShopRite in Paramus.

Two dozen organic eggs from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro are only $6.99.

Monday, September 19, 2016

We play one little fishie, two little fishies at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee

At BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee, my wife and me received complimentary side dishes and two battered and fried yellow croakers after we placed our order for beef and seafood soft-tofu soups.


Fans of soft-tofu soup with steamed rice and side dishes -- one of the most comforting Korean meals -- have no shortage of choices in Fort Lee and Palisades Park.

But BCD Tofu House stands out by offering organic tofu and a beautifully fried yellow croaker as one of the complimentary sides.

On Saturday night, we ordered soft-tofu soups and asked for two extra yellow croakers ($1 each).

A few minutes later, a server returned, placing six complimentary side dishes and two croakers between us.

Our last visit to BCD Tofu House was in May 2015, so we wondered whether these were the extra croakers or the complimentary ones served with our meal?

We asked a second server, and he brought us another croaker, but I still wasn't satisfied.

After we paid the bill, I asked the woman at the register, and she said one croaker is served with each tofu soup, so she gave us a fourth croaker in a takeout container.

Pay more, get more

BCD Tofu House charges $12.99 for a complete organic soft-tofu dinner, compared to $9.99 at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, our go-to place for many years.

Still, besides organic tofu, you get more side dishes at BCD Tofu House -- cabbage kimchi, pickled cucumber slices, seaweed, green peppers with shredded beef, boiled greens, spicy raw squid and a delectable whole little fish.

You can get seconds of all the side dishes but the fish just be asking.

My wife especially liked BCD's soft tofu or soondubu because it wasn't as salty as the version served at So Gong Dong.

My delicious Seafood Soondubu was brought to the table with a rolling boil that poached fresh eggs provided with the meal. My soup contained oysters, shrimp, small clams and a large mussel. The soft-boiled yolks were wonderful when broken and eaten over steamed white rice. Servers will put hot tea into the second stone bowl to loosen the crunchy rice crust, unless you tell them otherwise.

We finished two plates of the complimentary cabbage kimchi.

Spicy raw squid.

Shredded beef with green peppers.

A flat-screen TV in the front dining room allows parents to keep an eye on their children in a playroom, but the screams of those who misbehave come through loud and clear to other customers.

BCD Tofu House offers 11 versions of soft-tofu soup.

The easy to miss entrance in the Fort Lee Towne Center mall.


BCD Tofu House, 1640 Schlosser St., Fort Lee; 201-944-2340. Serves alcohol, open 7 days, free parking in lot and garage. Go early to avoid lines.

Photo of Seafood Soondubu on Website doesn't match what's served in Fort Lee. Branches are in New York, Los Angeles area, Seoul and Tokyo.