AJA Asian Cuisine brings tapas to Asian eats

Tons of restaurants are launching small plate menus where diners either on-the-go or looking for a little sampling can try everything that an eatery has to offer.

Now that AJA Asian Cuisine and Lounge is open in Montgomery and New Brunswick, Asian eats have gone shareable, too, with dishes that fuse Asian flavors and those from other cultures such as berries duck breast draped over Asian pears and mixed with blueberry and cherry sauce ($15) and yuzu sake with sliced pepper salmon layered with mango, pine nut and coconut yuzu sauce ($15).

“If you focus on just one type of food, everyone will get tired of it,” said Edison resident Cindy Lim, manager of the Montgomery location since day one. “But here, we think that everyone should have the chance to try something new.”

Courtesy of AJA

Lim said that through word-of-mouth from AJA servers chatting with customers, about eight out of 10 guests at the year-old eatery are interested in trying the fusion dishes, which can be found both on the small plates menu (not available online but can be seen from the PDF below) and the main menu.

“We have tons of items that other Asian restaurants don’t offer,” said Lim. “There is nothing like many of our tapas here.”

Some of those fusion dishes include the sushi pizza with tuna, salmon, white tuna, peppers, onion, tomatoes, spicy aioli and crunchy flakes in a pizza ($13), king crab taco medley with spicy king crab, lobster salad, guacamole and homemade salsa ($13) and king salmon carpaccio with finely sliced king salmon topped with tomato and tobiko in bed of yuzu soy sauce ($18).

Courtesy of AJA

However, for those who enjoy classic dishes such as sesame chicken or orange chicken (both $17), that can be found here, too – with an upscale touch, such as lighter breading and all-white meat chicken “so you can actually taste the chicken,” said Lim.

Even people who don’t like sushi can find ways to extend their palette at AJA Asian Cuisine.

The restaurant offers several cooked sushi rolls, which Lim loves because she also doesn’t eat raw fish, such as the dynamite roll with spicy tuna tempura, yellowtail, cream cheese and avocado topped with baked scallop and crabstick with the chef’s special sauce ($18), and the tuna amazing roll for $15 (half-raw and half-cooked) with white tuna tempura, spicy tuna and avocado topped with pepper tuna and roe with mango sauce.

Some of their other popular dishes include the tom yam grilled shrimp with tom yam infusion with homemade salsa ($12), Asian spice crusted calamari with mild aioli plum sauce over mesclun greens ($8) and rock shrimp tempura with creamy citrus mango sauce ($10).

Courtesy of AJA

The 350-seat restaurant brings in everyone from couples to families, and hopes to continue to innovate with new menu items, weekend entertainment, a gluten-free menu and even a third location.

Plus, the décor — which is a mix of modern touches and classic Asian pieces such as teapots, dragons and more — seems to also attract the mixed clientele and “remind our Asian customers of home,” said Lim.

When Jason Lim opened the Montgomery location at 1736 Route 206, the enormous space had already been the home of several failed restaurants. However, with AJA Asian Cuisine’s fusion philosophy, the location’s bad luck seems to have ceased.

Courtesy of AJA

“The owner wanted to challenge what has happened here before,” said Cindy Lim. “There’s nothing else Asian fusion like us in the area.”

If you go

What: AJA Asian Cuisine

Where: 1736 Route 206, Skillman and 28 Route 1, New Brunswick;

Contact: Skillman, 908-262-2512, ajamontgomery.comNew Brunswick: 732-249-5888, aja-newbrunswick.com

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