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Monday, May 7, 2018

Shopping at new H Mart: One-car crash, red mullet, high prices, not many organics

RARE FIND: I hadn't seen whole red mullet in a fish market until I visited the new H Mart in a shopping center on Route 17 north in Paramus. My wife seasoned 10 of the small whole fish and pan-fried them for our Sunday dinner.
GREAT BUY: One of the best buys I saw on Sunday was a box of 16 Ataulfo or Champagne Mangoes from Mexico for $7.99 or about 50 cents each. The flesh is sweet and silken. The sign said 14, but all of the boxes I saw held 16.



PARAMUS, N.J. -- Loud piped-in music, cramped grocery aisles, high prices for organics, and a food court that would save you only a few bucks over a full-service Korean restaurant.

Those are among my impressions after a first visit to a new H Mart that had its long-delayed grand opening on April 27 in a shopping center at Routes 17 and 4.

The 25,000-square-foot Korean supermarket would have been the seventh in Bergen County opened by the Lyndhurst-based chain, but H Mart closed its Englewood supermarket unexpectedly on April 23.

In a notice on the parking lot gates, customers were told the Englewood store had "relocated" to Paramus.

H Mart also launched home delivery of fresh produce, meat, seafood, eggs, milk and more to Englewood, as well Fort Lee, Palisades Park and Leonia.

A minimum order of $35 is required -- the service is called "H Fresh" --  and a delivery fee of $5.99 is waived for orders totaling $49 or more.

Paramus H Mart

The Paramus H Mart is not especially large, as you'll see if you try pushing a standard grocery cart down the narrow aisle with overpriced pasta sauces.

H Marts are known for their great produce, but I didn't see any organic Asian greens, and the organic salad mixes I did see were overpriced compared to Costco Wholesale.

The store was charging $5.99 for a pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, compared to $4.79 at Costco.


I also saw shelves labeled "ORGANIC" that were stocked with both organic and non-organic produce.

A highlight of the store is the seafood section, where I was surprised and delighted to find fresh, wild-caught red mullet ($5.99 a pound), a small fish  found near the South American coast and in the Mediterranean.

Among the free samples on Sunday were tiny portions of lobster salad and seared ahi tuna in a sesame dressing.

I'll likely return to shopping at the much bigger Little Ferry H Mart on Bergen Turnpike, near Route 46 -- shabbiest of the chain's Bergen County stores -- and wait for the grand opening of another new H Mart under construction and months behind schedule next door.

DETAILS: The new H Mart is at 60 Route 17 north in Paramus; 1-201-708-2820. Open 7 days from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Website: H Mart is short for Han Ah Reum (One Arm Full of Groceries).
HIGHWAY DRAMA: On Sunday, I decided to use the ramp onto Route 17 north to reach the shopping center, and ran into a traffic jam caused by the cleanup of a one-car accident, above and below. The driver of a Chevy Camaro on the way to a car show across the highway lost control and took out a section of the guardrail, and in the process totaled his car.
PRODUCING PROFITS: The entrance of the new H Mart leads you to the produce section, the most profitable in this and every other supermarket. A food hall is behind the dramatically high brick arches, and the store also has a Korean bakery that serves coffee.
POKE AND SUSHI: Poke bowls, sushi rolls and fresh oysters on the half shell are available at this food stand.
SANG'S KITCHEN: The lure here is a full menu of Korean barbecue and soft tofu soup.
MISH MASH: Organic Strawberries, cheaper when they are on sale at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, and non-organic Campari Tomatoes were displayed on shelves labeled "ORGANIC."
MASH-UP: Organic Baby Romaine ($3.99 for just 5 ounces) was displayed next to non-organic Baby Kale.
FREE SEAFOOD SAMPLES: H Marts are known for their free food samples on weekends, and the Paramus store was handing out a little lobster salad, seared ahi tuna and other premium seafood samples.
WILD TIGERS: These frozen shrimp were labeled Wild Tiger Shrimp U4 (4 to the pound) for $25.99 a pound.
MORE WILD SHRIMP: Frozen Wild White Shrimp from the United States were $7.99 a pound.
SEAFOOD SECTION: The fresh and frozen seafood section in Paramus isn't as large as in some other H Marts, but the limited selection is all a seafood lover could ask for, above and below.

TUNA LOIN: Seared Ahi or Yellowfin Tuna Loin was $15.99 a pound.
ORGANICS? The absence of organic Asian greens, such as Chinese Broccoli, was a major disappointment.
SPLISH SPLASH: At home, pan-fried red mullet from H Mart needed only a splash of fresh lemon juice.

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