I saw the sign going up for a new Asian fusion restaurant coming to my hometown of Hazlet. I thought, “Do we really need another one?” There are several takeout joints in this area, and the one sit-down place which arrived last year was, in my eyes, a bombastic failure. Maybe we should just leave it be. Hazlet doesn’t deserve any kind of culture. Skip ahead to this past weekend, and my friend Jason and I found ourselves heading into this place called UJ’s Asian Bistro, which I learned stands for “Uncle John’s”, of all things. We’re off to a great start. But then, we walked into the place. It was absolutely gorgeous. Unexpectedly beautiful to the point where you forget you are on Middle Road in Hazlet, next to the local landmark P & P Sweet Shop. “Where the hell am I?” I pondered to myself. From dim, changing lights on the ceiling to metallic gold and silver paneled walls, UJ’s managed to catch me completely off-guard.
But alas, there have been many times where a cool vibe and atmosphere were ruined by sub-par food. This was Hazlet after all. It couldn’t be good…could it? Not to seemingly bash my hometown, but when a TGI Friday’s is the apex of your culinary expectations, you could see why I’d be a little skeptical. We opened the menu to reveal a massive undertaking: an enormous (albeit expected) selection which is about half Japanese (sushi, hibachi, udon, teriyaki, tempura) and half Chinese (the usual favorites like chicken and broccoli, the “Happy Family”, etc). There are a plethora of Chinese takeout establishments in this area, and many Asian fusion as well. Normally, it’s a disaster brought on by well-meaning people simply being too ambitious for their own good with a menu too large to handle. Would this be the case? It was endless.
We were both starving, so we ordered up, and started out with a plate of fried pork dumplings and chicken rolls. The dumplings were presented on a leaf and crisped to perfection. They just looked good. These were not soggy globs, but crisp, well-flavored dumplings that were pan-seared. The innards were not as hot as I would have liked, but the taste was certainly there. The chicken rolls were essentially spring rolls. The opposite of the dumplings, they were burning hot. Also crispy with not hint of grease whatsoever. They each came with their own dipping sauces.
For meals, we shared our orders so we could get a better sampling. We chose the ubiquitous and very “un-Chinese” dish of chicken and broccoli along with the seafood over crispy noodles. For $12, they gave a piece of lobster, six or seven shrimp, the same number of scallops, and a couple dollops of crab meat along with vegetables. The noodles, which looked like a bird’s nest, were delicious. They were crispy and crackled with every bite. Not even the portion of steaming food on top of them could make them soggy. A total homerun at a great price. As for the other order, it was not so hot temperature-wise, but one of the best renditions of this Americanized food I’ve had. For $9, it came with a large scoop of pork fried rice (excellent) and an egg roll (above average). All vegetables present were firm and fresh. Jason and I struggled to find anything wrong with this meal. No complaints except I wish the food was hotter, but that is minuscule.
Where to wrap up UJ’s Asian Bistro? I never thought I would be dolling out such a high rating, but they are getting 3.5 out of 5 stars. The service was pleasant and ultra-appreciative when we said how good the food was. The atmosphere in this little restaurant was superb, and the area itself was clean. You can tell the owners put a lot of money into its design and construction. And the food, well, you just read above how great it was. Nothing was greasy, nor was it salty—good, clean eating. As I am moving into a new place fully in a couple of weeks, UJ’s is going to be less than a mile from the house. I am thankful for that. I hope to be back many times. This is the best Asian food the Hazlet/Holmdel area has ever seen and probably will see for quite some time. Great job, and best of luck!
UJ’s Asian Bistro is located at 479 Middle Road in Hazlet, New Jersey.