Middle Eastern in South Jersey
Last night we ate at Norma's in the Barclay Farms Shopping Center on Rt. 70 in Cherry Hill near I-295. The food was only OK and we were disappointed. Oasis On Church Rd near Rt.38 is much better. At Norma's we started with soup. My wife said of the vegetable, "It tastes like Progresso." The lentil soup was bland, also similar to canned. The Harrira soup was very similar to the lentil, bland with a few non lentil beans thrown in. ( I have only had this before at Oasis, and there is has very interesting spices.) The tabouli salad and marinated feta with tomatoes were both excellent. Hummus and baba ghanouj were OK but not special. The stuffed grape leaves were typical canned ones, warmed up. Falafel was quite dry, probably reheated. The tofu shawarma was OK, but quite bland.
We really like middle eastern food. Aladdin's Palace in Hamilton (2607 Hamilton Ave) right off I-295 was one of our favorite restaurants under its previous ownership and we still go occasionally. Sahara in Montgomery on 206 is OK, a little better than what we had at Norma's. Oasis is much more interesting as are Star Manti (Turkish) on Rt 130 in Delran and Sila (Turkish) a little further north on Rt 130. in Edgewater Park.
Is Norma's worth another try? How about its partner Couscous?
Actually, I also recently tried Norma's. I had the baba ghanouj, which I thought was really good. Could have been a bit smokier I guess. But I liked that. I was less impressed with the falafel sandwich, but it was pretty good too. Service was nice. And the baklava was really good. Not too sweet, which is usually my main complaint. It really was very tasty. The place next door, CousCous, appeared to be closed. Is that a restaurant too?
I also enjoy Sahara's when I'm in Montgomery (although I wish they wouldn't put cinnamon in the rice). But Aladdin's Palace used to be my favorite place ever. However, the meal I had when the new management took over was just not that great. I don't think they were making the pita themselves anymore. The baba ghanouj was also not as good. It was a real disappointment. It looks like the place may have closed? Does anyone know? I'd be willing to try it again if I can figure out what the strengths in the menu are.
I didn't realize the owner moved away. I didn't understand why they closed, since they were pretty busy and always got great reviews (Karla Cook in the NYT gave it an "Excellent"). A friend told me yesterday that the replacement restaurant just closed up shop, so apparently, it's vacant now.
I had a similar norma's experience the one time we went, a month or two ago.
I thought the tofu shawarma was tooooooo salty and accompanying sides were bland as well. Service was good and food was adequate, which is "good enough" for me (in the land of seemingly ONLY Italian restaurants) if I have a craving - although I'd never do the tofu shawarma again.
Will have to try Oasis - that's not too far from home at all, but I don't think I've ever seen it - and I usually go home that way. Hmmm...