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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Eating Out: Asian Fusion or Confusion? Plus, Ramen Noodle Azuma in Englewood

Flat Rice Noodles in Thai Basil Sauce, above, and Pad Thai with Shrimp, below, are two of the entrees available as part of a $7.50 lunch special at IFish in Tenafly, a Chinese and Thai restaurant.


HACKENSACK, N.J. -- I have a good hunch why only one other customer was being served when I met a friend for the $7.50 lunch special at IFish in Tenafly on Tuesday.

The drab exterior of the former Friendly's restaurant likely serves as a big turnoff to hungry people driving by on County Road or they may be confused by the restaurant's self-descriptions:

The takeout menu calls IFish a Chinese and Thai restaurant, the website address says "ifishchinesefood.com" and a sign on the front of the building reads, "Thai and Asian Fusion."

The menu lives up to the name IFish with whole fish, fillets, calamari and lots of other seafood listed.

But if I want Chinese food, I go to Lotus Cafe, and when I'm hungry for Thai food, I head for Bangkok Garden, both in Hackensack.

Asian Fusion just doesn't appeal to me.

$7.50 lunch

We ordered the lunch special, which includes a small bowl of soup, appetizer and rice for $7.50, with a $1 supplement for shrimp and other items.

Under "Cantonese Style" on the lunch special menu, I saw "Tofu w. Fish Fillet," but when I asked the waiter what kind of fish, he answered, "White fish."

"Tilapia, cod ....?" I said.

He said he didn't know, and didn't offer to ask the cook.

So, I ordered Flat Rice Noodles in Thai Basil Sauce and my friend got the Pad Thai with Shrimp. Both of us also got a small bowl of soup and an eggroll.

With the exception of the awful eggroll, the food was tasty, but not worth the detour.

To mark the restaurant's 1-year anniversary, the owner is offering two specials at dinner only: 

All-you-can order from the menu and eat for $16.95, but you must finish all the food to avoid an extra charge; and $24.95 for a 1.5-pound lobster.

A small bowl of Hot & Sour Soup came with my lunch special.
Each of us got a crispy egg roll, but I didn't recognize or taste anything in the bland, glutinous filling.
The beautifully renovated interior of the former Friendly's is quite a contrast after you see the...
... drab exterior of the original restaurant. The exterior appears to have been untouched.
IFish is at 114 County Road in Tenafly; 201-569-1111. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. BYO. Website: IFish Chinese & Thai Restaurant.
A corner of the dining room at IFish.

At Ramen Azuma

We know a couple of places in Fort Lee that specialize in steaming bowls of broth filled with Japanese ramen noodles, but we didn't want to fight the crowds late Monday afternoon.

So, we headed for Ramen Noodle Azuma, a 22-seat spot in Englewood with appealing food and moderate prices.

Bowls of spicy or mild ramen aren't the only draw here. 

I loved the three appetizers I ordered, and was tempted by a fourth, a Pori Pori Salad of mixed greens topped with avocado, seaweed and gyoza skin ($7.50).

The restaurant also serves Gyoza, described as homemade pork and shrimp dumplings; boneless fried chicken, and french fries with 3 kinds of sauce ($4.50 each).

Other ramens on the menu include a Vegan Tonkotsu ($12) and Kimchee Miso Flavored ($14.50).

To celebrate the first few months of operation, the restaurant is offering 50% off all menu items from June 18 through June 22, but takeout is not included.

My college-age son ordered a bowl of ramen described on the menu as Spicy Flavored Tonkotsu ($12.50). He rated the pork broth a 6 out of 10, but was impressed by the level of heat and thick, fatty slices of pork. My wife's Ajitama Ramen came with pork slices and extra soft-boiled egg (also $12.50).
One of three appetizers I ordered was Kyuuri, sliced cucumber with red-pepper powder served over seaweed ($4).
Ebi Katsu Buns ($5) contain fresh shrimp coated with crispy  panko bread crumbs and topped with cabbage and spicy mayo. Nice.
I also tried Takoyaki ($5), crispy octopus balls with hot, creamy interiors and a garnish of thin bonito flakes that move from the heat of the appetizer, animating this tasty dish.
Ramen Noodle Azuma is at 39 S. Van Brunt St. in Englewood; 1-201-567-1283. Seating at counter and tables. Open 7 days from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. BYO. Website: Japanese Ramen Noodles
Water is served in small mason jars.

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