Around 11:30 am the signs begin to appear on the sidewalks: Lunch Special! Up and down Bloomfield Avenue, along Valley Road, on Church Street, and throughout Watchung Plaza the chalked blackboards reveal the reasonably priced lunch offerings at our local restaurants! (Read: Good eats on the cheap.)
Take it from me: take advantage. Lunch specials are the equivalent of gastronomic gold – a midday score. So get out and dine at lunchtime - there are just too many bargains to pass up.
I dine out more frequently at lunch hour than during dinner service. When the mid-day growl starts rolling I consider the options: a sandwich? A salad? A yogurt? A bowl of Kashi? A whole salami? A wedge of cheese? Really? A triple grande skim latte? I think, not.
The HFTK weekly “Lunch Hot Spot” will examine the best lunches offered in our fine, ever improving hamlet: my beloved, Montclair.
Anyone who appreciates cuisine knows that Nelson Yip, the culturally versatile executionist (chef/owner) of Aozora, has created a stellar menu and offers some of the finest and freshest in modern Asian cuisine in the area.
But let’s not neglect the lunch menu. This fiercely local food blogger believes Aozora is the home to one of the finest lunches for the money in Montclair!
Starting at $10.50, the lunch specials at Aozora are every bit as good as the entrees. My go to fave is the sushi and maki selection of the day. Priced at just $11.50, this lunch is so stellar I can't believe patrons aren't lined up daily all the way to Glen Ridge.
It is important to mention that most of the lunch specials come with a salad. This isn’t just any “thrown together for lunch” salad. Baby greens, sometimes baby arugula, dressed with a savory, oh-so-good ginger dressing and rimmed with an balsamic syrup, it is so yummified!
Those in the know ask for The Mido (Mee-doo) Lunch Special - a phenomenal combo of spicy tuna sushi(presented in pseudo-maki fashion with the spicy tuna placed atop the seaweed wrapped rice), and accompanied by two hand rolls stuffed with crispy salmon skin and spicy salmon.
If you’ve never had a Crispy Salmon Skin hand roll (called a BC roll at Aozora) I suggest you do so – today! I could best describe it as the southern fried chicken of the sushi world; the crackling of the fish world. It’s the sushi for pork lovers!
But it’s not just sushi at Aozora. On a recent lunch, my hubby dined on Chilean sea bass from the dine-in lunch menu which was incredible: buttery, rich, fresh, beautifully presented, and perfectly saucedl. My son, opted for the charred and tender special grilled octopus.
The take-out lunch menu also offers selections like duck confit with sun-dried tomato risotto ($10.95), lemon greass chicken with basil rice and vegetables ($12.50), and blackened salmon with roasted garlic mashed pototoes and dijonaise sauce ($11.50), among many other reasonably priced options.
So, as our list of Lunch Hot Spots in Montclair rounds out, I place Aozora among the best.
Have you dined at Aozora lately? Don't forget to vote on the HFTK Heat Index.
407 Bloomfield Avenue
Montclair, NJ 07042