Reporter staff writer
For a changing Jersey City downtown dynamic, Box, a new Asian fusion restaurant on Newark Avenue, offers young professionals who don’t have time to cook variety at affordable prices.
“This is a new Jersey City,” said Owner Alan Lau, 52. A resident and local entrepreneur for 30 years, he opened Box eight months ago to respond to a growing trend of professionals doing less cooking at home and more day-to-day eating out.
Creating an atmosphere of harmony and balance
After walking through a modest entrance, visitors to the Newark Avenue establishment are greeted by a Buddha statue with water flowing from the hands, all part of the Feng Shui inspired, sleek design. Lau hired a Manhattan designer to style the interior, which has branched trees between tables, contemporary booths and tables, and a bar with wine-glass chandeliers.
"Feng shui is all about harmony for people to feel good, comfortable, relaxed," said Lau.
Inside the Bento Box
In opening Box, Lau wanted to give busy people the opportunity to eat a little bit of everything on the menu without having to pay separately for each item. Thus, the Bento Box offers soup, salad, an appetizer, an entrée and rice for as little as $13.
"Our food is light, a lot less oily, less saucy," said Lau.
The menu offers a mix including Korean BBQ, Malaysian curry, teriyaki, sushi, and traditional Chinese items like General Tso’s chicken. "We do everything right,” said Lau.
Light and crispy appetizers
Appetizers range from $4 for a dish like Edamame to $8 for chicken pine nut wrap. The popular crab Rangoon, $5, a crispy wonton skin with crab meat and cream cheese, goes well dipped in plum sauce. Another favorite such as crispy peppercorn squid $7 with crispy red onion and garlic tastes unlike any other traditional fried calamari. The crispy banana Shrimp roll, $7, with a coconut crunch and crushed peanuts, offers a surprising sweetness wrapped in a delightful crunch.
The soup and salad menu ranges from $2 for wonton soup to $10 for Asian grilled shrimp salad.
Distinct Korean BBQ
Main entrees on the house specialty menu start at $11 for a dish like General Tso's chicken. They include the highly popular Korean style boneless BBQ beef short ribs for $16 – tender and delightfully flavored. For an extra kick, try it with a bit of traditional kimchi, spicy pickled cabbage. Box is one of a limited number of places to offer Korean BBQ in the area.
Another favorite entree includes savory Udon noodles $10 cooked in homemade XO sauce, made from dried shrimp, scallops, fried onions and other spices. Patrons can choose between vegetables, tofu, vegetarian chicken, duck or actual pork, beef or prawn as an accompaniment.
New sushi bar
Lau diversified the menu two months ago by bringing on a new chef and adding a sushi bar. He gets high quality fish from Chinatown.
The special sushi and sashimi menu includes appetizers from $6 to $10, a la carte options for $3, entrees $9 to $45, and rolls. The sushi chef comes up with creative presentations for items like the spicy lover roll, $11, that includes shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and avocado in a soy wrap. The salmon perfect lover combo is $45 for the ambitious who want to tackle 10 pieces of assorted sushi, 15 pieces of sashimi, a dragon roll, and a Godzilla roll.
An a la carte item like spicy salmon sushi, $9, offers an aftertaste kick accompanied by jalapeno pepper.
The passion roll is popular for $12 and includes spicy tuna, salmon, yellowtail, caviar, avocado, topped with tuna and spicy mayo sauce.
Room for vegetarians
Vegetarians will find traditional Asian cuisine options with the ability to mix a number of main ingredients such as eggplant, tofu, mixed vegetables, vegetarian chicken or duck, and a sauce and rice. The steamed tofu with bok choy, $10, cooked in a light garlic sauce, leaves you satisfied with a good balance of textures and taste.
Vegetarian duck, $10, made from bean curd cooked in a basil sauce with fresh basil throughout, will fool any carnivore.
For dessert, top off the meal with cake, fried honey banana or coconut or green tea ice cream. The restaurant also has a full service bar and happy hour throughout the week.
Originally from Hong Kong, Lau studied in Thailand before arriving in California in the late 1970s to pursue computer science. He began working in the restaurant business alongside his sister after moving to Jersey City in the early 1980s. He owns three other restaurants in downtown Jersey City: Sawadee Thai; More; and Sky Thai, which Lau said offer up distinct menus.
Box is located on 176 Newark Ave. in Jersey City and is open Monday through Saturday. For more information visit, www.boxjc.com or call 201-432-1670.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.