Q2 café - authentic Shanghainese in Warren, NJ
My first post. I have been lurking now and then for leads on good restaurants around where we live. I am still relatively new to the area. So far I didn’t have much to contribute.
Despite all the suggestions here, I have been ranting with my wife for some time that we had not found a good and inexpensive Chinese close to us. We regularly go to Jade Isle in Scotch Plains for dim sum, but that's a little further than I want to drive for a quick meal when I don't feel like cooking. Now I believe I found what I was looking for, in a rather unlikely place: a café.
Q2 café is in the same shopping center in Warren where Silk Road and Thai Kitchen are. I passed in front of it several times but paid no attention to it until about a week ago. While leaving Silk Road, I saw a sign outside advertising "Asian new fusion" dishes. I got closer and noticed a menu written in Chinese in display on the window. I avidly grabbed one copy of the English menu and made a mental notice that I should be back ASAP.
I have trying since then to come up with an excuse to take my wife back there (she’s not a big fan of Chinese food.) We were in the area yesterday with a friend, when I sheepily suggested that it was too late to cook dinner and we should buy some food to take home. To which, fortunately, they agreed.
The women at the counter were clearly puzzled that I wanted to order from the Chinese menu even though I couldn’t read it. After going back and forth a little, we eventually settled on a mix of our picks and suggestions by the hosts. We ordered an Asian pancake with chicken for appetizer, a flounder dish in tomato sauce from the Chinese menu recommended by the host, mango chicken, and Shanghai noodles with chicken.
(That’s a lot of chicken, I know.) The total bill came to around $47.
Even though we ordered our food to go, the host insisted that we ate the pancake there, while still warm (somehow in authentic Chinese restaurants I am always told by the waiter if I ordered enough food, how I should eat my food, and what I should not order because “Americans don’t like that". I have almost come to expect that).
The pancake was one of the best I had. The dough was crisp and the ingredients were fresh and tasty.
While we were still waiting, the host offered us a complimentary soup with tomato and chicken. This too was excellent. It had a strong garlic taste, with just the right amount of spiciness. The tomatoes were very tasty and the chicken tender and not too dry.
We had the rest of our food at home. Everything was excellent, with none of that goopy and sweet sauce that is all too common in mediocre Chinese food. The flounder was probably the best of all. It was sautéed in a light batter in a garlicky tomato sauce with onions. Simple but very good. Again, the tomatoes were delicious, and the flounder was perfectly cooked: juicy and not dry at all.
The food was abundant for the three of us; we have plenty of leftovers for another meal. The dishes, to our surprise, did not come with steamed rice. Next time we know and we order it separately.
Even though we found it very good, I can’t fully vouch for their claim of authenticity, but only for lack of knowledge on my side. I have never been to China, I am not Chinese, nor I play one on TV (even though I’ll admit to having played Peter Sellers playing the Chinese in more than one occasion). I did show the Chinese menu to a coworker of mine who is Chinese and she said the dishes looked authentic to her from the description.
While we were there, a couple of women came and were served pork shoulder, which I understand is a typical Shanghai dish. It looked delicious. Next time that’s what I am going to order.
Appetizer are between $5 and $8. Entrees on the Chinese menu are between $10 and $28 ($38 for pecking duck for 4).They also have the regular fare of café dishes on their menu, such as sandwiches, wraps and salads, but that’s not what I was after.
The décor, like their web site, could use some improvement. But then, again, it’s a café, not a fine restaurant.
The address is
41 Mountain Blvd, Warren, NJ 07059
tel. (908) 21-5128 or (732) 968-0858
Please try it out and report back what you think. According to the host they opened only five months ago. The few times I passed by it was always almost empty. Now that I found a good Chinese close enough to our house, I would be very disappointed if it were to go out of business for lack of costumers.
We go there every chance we great. Consistently fresh, delicious and a great value. I've met the owner and she is certainly Chinese though I have no idea of details beyond that. Easily some of the most interesting food around and at far better prices than the only other nearby Asian fusion I know of.