You can eat your way through the Middle East at the myriad of Arab, Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese restaurants in Paterson. However, the Safersteins were brought to this city, populated by immigrants, to try the only Armenian restaurant, Krichian’s Grill & Bistro.
Armenian music and landscapes painted on the walls—as well as customers speaking what we assumed was Armenian—all added to the restaurant’s appeal. The menu is basically the same as other Middle Eastern eateries with some familiar items such as hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, tabbouleh, gyros, kebabs and baklava offered. A few items that were unfamiliar to us included yogurt kibbeh (beef, cracked wheat and spices served in yogurt soup); arayis (pita filled with ground beef); Armenian mortadella and basturma (aged beef coated with a mixture of fenugreek, garlic and spices).
Before we ordered, pickled cabbage, cubes of feta cheese, green olives and banana peppers were brought to table along with thin, hot pita bread. Although there was a communication problem, the waitress recommended some dishes that were spot on. Armenian shepherd salad contained diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, scallions, parsley, mint and a refreshing light vinaigrette dressing. Basturma was too salty for me, but Lowell had no complaints and left a clean plate. Muhammara, a spread made with hot red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, pomegranate molasses, olive oil and spices was gobbled up by both of us. Portions were large and since we were full an entrée of whole grilled branzino with lemon, garlic and tahini sauce was shared. A side of flavorful lentil pilaf enriched with caramelized onions was a delightful change from plain steamed rice.
Finish your dinner with strong Armenian coffee (similar to Greek or Turkish) with baklava, kadaif (shredded filo with white cheese and cinnamon) or a few desserts that were new to us such as hallawa bil jebneh (Middle Eastern cheesecake) and haitalia (milk pudding).
Heads Up: Krichian’s is located on the border of Clifton and Paterson so be sure to put Paterson on your GPS as the street numbers can be confusing.
Krichian’s Grill & Bistro, 399 Crooks Ave, Paterson; 973-569-1033; BYO. Open for lunch & dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Outdoor dining weather permitting.
We also visited Kimchi Mama in West Caldwell. The food is fresh and full-flavored at this tiny storefront restaurant, which opened in March. There is also a location in Fair Lawn. Most people order out here as there are only two tables and a counter where you can sit. If you dine here, avoid prime hours on weekends when there can be a line out the door.
My friend Mary, a serious foodie who has taken cooking classes all over the world, and I spent a few hours here over lunch. We started with a unique Korean burrito which was chock full of seasoned rice, Korean vegetables and spicy pork. It can also be ordered with beef, chicken or vegetables. The two of us could not finish one burrito and Lowell gobbled it up for dinner along with the other leftovers I brought home.
Crispy double-fried chicken wings bathed in a hot sauce or a sweet garlic soy sauce were served with a side of traditional pickled radish. Our opinion? Try both. They are addictive.
Yumi-Bokki, a Korean stew encompassed rice cakes, fish cakes and stir fried vegetables in a spicy red pepper sauce. When ordering we were asked if we wanted it with or without mozzarella cheese. Mary and I agreed that the cheese was superfluous.
Beef Bulgogi was bursting with flavor, color and varied textures from the fresh vegetables (red pepper, onions, zucchini, scallions, cucumbers, enoki mushrooms and carrots) which were served over steamed rice and topped with a sunny side up egg. A spicy red sauce was served on the side and we were instructed to pour it over the ingredients and then mix everything together.
Bubble tea is offered in a variety of flavors. We had wine and on our next visit I will BMOG (bring my own glasses) as I prefer not drinking wine from plastic cups. Plastic plates and utensils are also used.
Kimchi Mama, 691 Bloomfield Ave, West Caldwell; 973-228-4371; BYO. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Friday.
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