Feb. 28, 2022
By Ely Baeza
AJ Shanghai Restaurant, which is located on 775 Riverside Ave., is said to be inspired by the authentic cuisine of restaurants in Fort Lee. I have to disagree. I have been to Fort Lee numerous times, and the food there is exquisite. AJ Shanghai Restaurant cannot even compare to other Chinese restaurants in Lyndhurst, much less Fort Lee.
First, the tacky decor at AJ Shanghai Restaurant gives off old thrift store vibes. The seats are black and white gator-patterned leather, and all of the plates have a little kids’ tea set design that is peeling off. Considering the fact that the restaurant is fairly new, I am amazed that the paint on the plates already looks old.
When I visited, there was pop music playing in the background, and all of the lights were dim, which made everything look orange and yellow. The waiters took a while to come over even though there were not that many people dining when I went.
When my table tried to request the check, it took a full 10 minutes for a server to deliver it because they simply kept glancing at my table and then looked away. Furthermore, the ventilation was poor, and because of that, it was really cold when I was there.
The Kung Pao chicken was the only thing that didn’t taste bland, but that was only because it was literally covered in pepper.
Regarding the food, all of it was burning hot and bland, which is interesting because usually when food is warm, it has more flavor. All of the portions were small, which was also unexpected and slightly aggravating considering that most Chinese restaurants offer large portions.
My table was given a small glass tea kettle, and the spout was angled in such a way that it was difficult not to spill any tea when pouring. Like the food, the tea was bland because it was watered down. The wonton soup ($7.95), which was too hot, was also tasteless and the wontons were empty. The cilantro was not cut correctly, so there were floating lumps of it on top of the soup. The seaweed in the soup was slightly overcooked, so it tasted bitter, and the steamed pork dumplings ($7.95) were flavorless and gummy.
The General Tso’s chicken ($13.95) was pretty good, but the chicken was slightly rubbery. It was the only thing about the meal that was kind of good, but it was still bland. The outside of the chicken was crunchy, but the crunch was inconsistent, as some of the chicken pieces were not crunchy at all. The Kung Pao chicken ($13.95), which has chunks of celery and peanuts in it, tasted like a plate of gummy pepper. The Kung Pao chicken was the only thing that didn’t taste bland, but that was only because it was literally covered in pepper.
I was excited to check out this new, local restaurant, but after my visit, I am sure I will never go back to AJ Shanghai Restaurant. It has no redeeming qualities and my meal was a waste of my time and money.
For excellent Chinese food in Lyndhurst, consider checking out Bergen Dragon on 280 Ridge Road or Tasty Fusion on 33 Ridge Road. I have been going to these restaurants for a while, and they have been consistently amazing with a clean environment, big menus, flavorful food and huge portions. Lyndhurst has a lot of good restaurants, but unfortunately, AJ Shanghai Restaurant is not one of them.