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Searching for the best Chinese cuisine in New Jersey

n
NYC2TLV Dec 6, 2009 08:15 AM

Good morning.

I travel every week around the garden state and have been keeping track of every place that I have visited. I have made it a point to always try a new kosher restaurant and support every community's local restaurants. I was encouraged by friends to share my findings on Chowhound. So I have kept notes of every visit. The criteria that I looked at were the following:

1. Value - Price paid versus portion size.
2. Taste - No explanation needed.
3. Location - Vicinity to other kosher shops, major roadways and parking.
4. Ambiance - Was it a nice place to sit down, enjoy a meal.
5. Overall - The overall score when averaging the other four numbers.

The only way that this ranking could be fair is if I ordered the same dish from each place every time that I went. The dish in this case was chicken with broccoli and white rice. Here are the results (in no specific order):

Chan's Glatt (Teaneck, New Jersey)
Value - 5
Taste - 2
Location - 4
Ambiance - 5
The restaurant is located on Cedar Lane making it accessible from Route 4 as well as Interstate 80 and 95. Being on Cedar Lane means that it is near other kosher restaurants and the is a parking lot down the block. The location is new and in good condition. I ordered the lunch special which came with what was the best won ton soup that I have ever had, but we are really reviewing the chicken with broccoli. Once I received the chicken with broccoli (which came before I finished my won ton soup) it was piping hot and I was satisfied with the portion size after having the soup. The broccoli though was too hard for liking and the chicken was not appetizing. It was such a let down after the fantastic soup. Fortunately for Chan's Glatt the other criteria boosted its overall score.
Overall - 4

Chang Mao Sakura (Oakhurst, New Jersey)
Value - 2
Taste - 3.5
Location - 4
Ambiance - 4
I think that this was the most expensive chicken with broccoli that I have ever eaten outside of New York. The prices were very high for the portion sizes. The taste was extremely reminiscent of Chopstix in Teaneck, New Jersey with the exception that Chang Mao Sakura puts baby corn in their chicken and broccoli dish. It was a pleasant surprise. There were plenty of tables and ample parking available which helped to boost its score after the oily dinner. The taste was fine, it just was too oily and I would have needed more white rice to soak up the rest of the oil.
Overall - 3.38

Chopstix (Teaneck, New Jersey)
Value - 3
Taste - 3
Location - 5
Essentially Chopstix is just a take out place with two locations. One in Teaneck and the other in West Orange, New Jersey. The location is extremely convenient with a large parking lot nearby at Glatt Express as well as other kosher eateries in the area. Additionally, it is a few hundred feet from Route 4 and a mile from Interstate 80 and 95. The food at Chopstix is extremely oily. Both the chicken and broccoli were good but it was too heavy on the sauce and oil. Even when combined with the white rice it was a bit too much. The value score went down when I noticed that Chopstix tries to save money by giving customers one large white rice instead of two separate containers of small white rice for two separate orders. It isn't fair because you run out of white rice faster. Points were also taken off for ambiance since all they have are a couple of stools but you might not be in the need for ambiance.
Overall - 3.25

Jin (Passaic, New Jersey)
Value - 5
Ambiance - 3
Taste - 2
Location - 3
Located between kosher bakeries and eateries, Jin actually left the worst taste in my mouth. I found that the food was terrible. The only way it made up for the terrible taste was the value factor as well as the ambiance and location. They actually have tables inside to sit down so I had to give it higher marks than Chopstix in Teaneck in that regard. The lunch special comes with a won ton soup and some Chinese noodles which are extremely oily. But the chicken and broccoli had a terrible sauce on it. I ended up dipping Chinese noodles in duck sauce for the rest of the meal. There wasn't a lot of white rice.
Overall - 3.25

New Kosher Special (Elizabeth, New Jersey)
Value - 3
Taste - 5
Ambiance - 3
Location - 5
Situated on Elmora Avenue close to the other kosher eateries and shops New Kosher Special is the best chicken with broccoli hands down. The sauce to oil to chicken ratio is perfect. So why did it lose out on the overall rating? Well, if you get a lunch special or even a regular dinner, the portions are tiny. I mean really small. The ambiance is the same as Jin in Passaic, New Jersey. Just a few tables to sit down with your food. If you are there in the winter, don't sit near the door because you will get a gust of cold wind hitting you in the face when someone walks in.
Overall - 4

Prime Wok (Lakewood, New Jersey)
Value - 5
Taste - 4
Ambiance - 4
Location - 3
This is a rather new establishment in Lakewood. It is a couple of blocks off of Madison Avenue and one block off of Clifton Avenue but it is not convenient for parking or walking from other kosher establishments. They offer a "bochurim" special which is essentially the lunch special just at any hour of the day. The lunch special was great in terms of portion size and bang for buck. The prices were terrific. The taste was very good and the sauce to oil to chicken ratio was proportional to the amount of white rice needed. The reason why I gave it a higher rank than Jin and New Kosher Special for ambiance is because the place is new and comfortable. This might be the best kosher chicken with broccoli in Ocean County though I haven't tried them all yet.
Overall - 4

Currently, the standings are as follows:
1. New Kosher Special (Elizabeth, New Jersey)
2. Prime Wok (Lakewood, New Jersey)
3. Chan's Glatt (Teaneck, New Jersey)
4. Chang Mao Sakura (Oakhurst, New Jersey)
5. Chopstix (Teaneck, New Jersey)
6. Jin (Passaic, New Jersey)

Soon to be added to the rankings:
Kosher Chinese Express (South Manalapan, New Jersey)
Lin's Kosher Chinese (Manville, New Jersey)

I could have also put Ta'am China in Brookline, Massachusetts but I wanted to keep this about my favorite state, New Jersey.

  1. h
    Hirscheys Dec 6, 2009 06:55 PM

    Thanks for this very informative post. I used to live in Elizabeth, NJ and couldn't agree more with your ratings on New Kosher Special. Despite the appearances of the place, absolutely fantastic kosher chinese. In fact, when my husband or I are passing by on the NJ Turnpike, we still make an effort to stop by and pick up some takeout, despite now living in NYC, where there is no shortage of Kosher options. I am also a big fan of Kosher Chinese Express, in Manapan, and look forward to the review.

    1. s
      seikoloco Dec 7, 2009 07:07 AM

      I hope to see Lin's (Manville's) results. I prefer them over New Kosher Special. Their all you can eat buffet nights are fantastic and a great deal too!

      1. f
        fourunder Dec 7, 2009 07:40 AM

        The value score went down when I noticed that Chopstix tries to save money by giving customers one large white rice instead of two separate containers of small white rice for two separate orders. It isn't fair because you run out of white rice faster.
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        It's only a separate order if packed in two different bags, not if packed in one. You receive rice for your total order, not the dish. Let's say the standard is a cup of rice for each item ordered and you order three dishes.....this by your perception would require three separate containers of rice to be packed for each dish.....however, I would be willing to wager every restaurant or take-out place would simply give you a quart of rice in one container as a matter of policy. If you want separate containers of rice for each dish ordered, I'm also sure all you need to do is request it.

        Your value deduction based on this is silly and the green police have you in their sights..

        1 Reply
        1. re: fourunder
          n
          NYC2TLV Dec 10, 2009 07:10 PM

          Being that I am resident of North Jersey, I have many experiences with Chopstix. Even when you ask for separate white rice containers and explain to them that they are for individual orders for an office (people eat at their cubicles and don't share white rice) they still don't do it.

        2. kosherfoodies Dec 7, 2009 09:25 AM

          chang mao sakura has been there forever, which is a good sign. kosher restaurants in deal don't usually last more than one summer season!

          1 Reply
          1. re: kosherfoodies
            n
            NYC2TLV Dec 10, 2009 07:12 PM

            That is very good for Oakhurst and the surrounding communities. Another customer (from the area) waiting for an order told me that many people go to either Lakewood or Manalapan for better prices and better taste.

          2. t
            The Cameraman Dec 7, 2009 09:59 AM

            Minor quibble. Prime Wok in Lakewood is located two or three doors down from a driveway. That driveway leads to a free municipal parking lot which can hold over 100 vehicles. I appreciate that there is no sign stating this and the driveway is on an incline which means the parking lot is completely invisible from 5th St.- it's one of those things that only the locals know about.

            That aside, I have to thank you for this very informative and scientific post.

            2 Replies
            1. re: The Cameraman
              n
              NYC2TLV Dec 10, 2009 07:10 PM

              Thanks for the tip, I will look for the parking lot next time.

              1. re: NYC2TLV
                t
                The Cameraman Dec 11, 2009 07:38 AM

                Google doesn't have Streetview for Fifth St yet, but here's a view of the parking lot entrance on Clifton Avenue (it's right next to Gelbstein's): http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&s...

            2. s
              Southern Belle Dec 23, 2009 06:53 PM

              There is a place in Fair Lawn that is cash only, take out only, and in the past it has been delicious though I am not sure if they have gone down a bit in quality in the past year or so. Its called Kosher Express and its on Morlot.

              1. n
                NYC2TLV Jan 11, 2010 02:07 PM

                New addition as I finally stopped on US-9 after a day in Lakewood, New Jersey.

                Kosher Chinese Express (South Manalapan, New Jersey)
                Value - 5
                Taste - 4
                Ambiance - 2.5
                Location - 3.5
                While US-9 is a great location with accessibility, I had to take off points for the reason that if you are headed north on US-9 and need to continue north after you visit Kosher Chinese Express, you will have to do some u-turns. I walked into the restaurant at exactly 15:30 which is when the lunch special ends. That didn't prevent them from giving me the lunch special. The price is fantastic ($6.75) though the lunch special doesn't come with any other bonus items (no drink, wonton soup etc.) That didn't matter as the container was probably more than two times the size of the container from New Kosher Special. The ambience is the same as New Kosher Special and Jin in that it has tables if you want to eat there and like New Kosher Special, you can watch them make your food (though I don't like that and take off points for it). The chicken strips were of a mediocre quality. One lunch special came with big thick strips and the other came with smaller ones (I ordered two in case one would not have been enough.) There wasn't too much oil in the dish and it was easily soaked up by the white rice to give it a great flavor. For those who like carrots, I spotted a few inside but it was really negligible. My overall verdict is that this is probably the best value in Ocean County for chicken and broccoli but it was not the tastiest.
                Overall - 3.75

                Stay tuned as I will be in the Manville area on Thursday and hope to stop into Lin's Kosher Chinese.

                1. b
                  brooklynkoshereater Jan 11, 2010 07:05 PM

                  I love the wonton soup at New Kosher Special (Elizabeth chinese restaurant) - I can literally eat quarts of the stuff in a single sitting. All of the food is really good - the beef sticks are my husband's personal fave.

                  1. k
                    kiddush hopper Jan 12, 2010 10:10 AM

                    FYI, there is some sort of connection between the Manalapan, Fairlawn and Elizabeth Chinese places. they were all opened up by the same people.

                    i remember when new kosher special opened up (about 15 years ago) they were also supposed to be new kosher express (they even put the sign up for a few days) however the burger place, now known as Glatt Star, had just changed its name TO Kosher Express a few weeks earlier.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kiddush hopper
                      b
                      brooklynkoshereater Jan 14, 2010 07:15 PM

                      I think they're also related to the chinese place on 18th avenue, in Brooklyn (across the street from Dougie's)

                    2. n
                      NYC2TLV Jan 14, 2010 06:33 PM

                      Well Lin will have to wait another week, I ended up in the Highland Park area and stopped there for my chicken with broccoli fix.

                      Mei Garden Cuisine (Highland Park, New Jersey)
                      Value - 5
                      Taste - 3
                      Ambiance - 2.5
                      Location - 5
                      Just off of Route 18 and close to I-95 and I-287, Mei Garden is right next to the kosher pizza shop which will be in my next series searching for the best kosher slice. With a public parking lot across the street, I had to give them the highest ratings for a location. Getting in around 12:30, the place was not packed and I sat down to order the lunch special for $6.50 and added the $1.25 extra for the won ton soup (which was supposed to come with a beef egg roll). Chicken with brocolli was not on the menu for the lunch special, but they gave it to me anyway. The won ton soup was very bland. I didn't like the texture of the soup spoon I was given and found that all the utensils were in need of being replaced so I put that under the ambiance rating. The bathroom area was in poor condition as are the carpets and ceilings. The tables are fine but the place is no where near Chan's Glatt in that department. What was a nice touch though was the water placed on the table (no need to ask for it), the duck sauce with Chinese noodles and that I didn't have to see into the kitchen. Finally for the main course. The food was overflowing from the dish. I like to mix the white rice with the chicken and broccoli so that it soaks up all the sauce. It was impossible to mix as it was overflowing from the dish. I probably could have asked for a plate, but I neglected to do so and ate my food carefully. The broccoli was good, very short and moist like I like them. The chicken was tender and the flavor was good and strong. The problem though was the amount of sauce and oil that killed it for me and there wasn't enough white rice to go along. This would not stop me from visiting here and I would return in the future (perhaps with my own utensils.
                      Overall - 3.875

                      I will try to be in the Manville area some time next week.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: NYC2TLV
                        a
                        asf78 Jan 15, 2010 04:25 AM

                        I know that you are using chicken and broccoli as your constant, but that's not really Mei Garden's best dish. They make many other things much better. And while it's not "chinese" food, my brother LOVES their pastrami fried rice. I don't eat red meat, but apparently, it's the best pastrami fried rice he's had.

                        For your pizza series, I have to say that while the pizza at Jerusalem Pizza in Highland Park is good (I enjoy it, anyway), what really sets this place apart from other pizza establishments is the other food. The combination plate is about $7 and you get four salads (not just salad either - could be a mini quiche or potato latkes or breaded fried cauliflower or any number of other hot foods - all count as "salad," and the actual salads like the Israeli salad are amazing), four falafel balls and a pita. It's such a great deal, and really two meals worth of food. The options are almost overwhelmingly extensive. The place will not score well on ambience, and if you go during a regular lunch hour, it's a zoo (next to impossible to find a table), but that says something about the quality and value of the food that it's so busy. I know this is off-topic to the original posting and theme of this thread, but I can't stress enough that if Jerusalem Pizza in HP gets low scores based on the pizza alone (when the time comes for that series), it's not a true picture of what the restaurant offers. My parents rarely get pizza when they go - it's all about the combination plate. And their catering is really, really good too, and reasonably priced.

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