Mehek Indian Restaurant

Bringing authentic Indian food to Princeton

Creating delicious, high-quality food, a warm ambiance and great service propelled Sunita Midha and Seema Chopra to open Mehek Fine Indian Dining in the heart of downtown Princeton.

The partners say they wanted to bring a good Indian restaurant to Princeton so students, area residents, visitors, and those seeking regular fine dining all could enjoy authentic Indian cuisine.

“We have a big variety of different foods,” said Midha. “There’s a great selection of vegetarian food, chicken, lamb, seafood, and many varieties of rice, Naan and dessert. Hard to find elsewhere, Sizzlers and Kabaabs are our hot-selling items.”

Mehek’s dishes are prepared with taste and health in mind. By creatively using spices, the chef is able to use less oil, making dishes fresh and tasty. This approach is used in both the upstairs fine dining area and the downstairs take-out.

“Our take-out is great for students,” Midha explained. “We always have four vegetarian and two non-vegetarian items ready for take-out. You can mix and match to create the meal you want.” Other menu items also are available for take-out.

Every good restaurant has signature dishes, and Mehek is no exception. Hungry diners return often for the Vegetarian Korma made with mild spices, onion, ginger, garlic and the tiniest hint of cream. Chicken Saagwana — with spinach —also is a hit. Connoisseurs of Indian food rave about Mehek’s many lamb dishes. To accompany the meal, Lassi — a yogurt drink available in many flavors — and teas, such as Masala Chai, are extremely popular.

In addition to fine dining and take-out, Mehek runs an extensive catering operation. Midha says the restaurant caters functions for many different Princeton University departments. Mehek catering also handles weddings, birthdays, corporate parties and other special events.

“Our catered food is very fresh, and is often prepared on site,” Midha noted. “We bring a clay oven so we can make Naan, Parantha and Kabaabs. Our Garlic Chili Naan is one of our most popular items. It’s a ‘puffy’ bread served with fresh garlic dip. We also bring our wok so we can make fresh Puris, Bhaturas and appetizers on premises.”

While the food is a highlight, the friendly staff also is a reason to visit Mehek. The restaurant’s servers are well-versed in Indian cuisine, and can help guests select the right level of spices for their favorites.

Mehek is a “BYOB” restaurant that offers outdoor seating, weather permitting. Each day, the restaurant features an inexpensive Lunch Buffet for $8.95. Selections include appetizers, entrees, rice, Naan, salads, fresh fruits, sweet dishes and Raita (a yogurt sauce) to complement the dishes. The Lunch Buffet, along with the regular lunch menu, is available from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wednesday night is Chaat and Kabaab Night at Mehek. This popular Dinner Buffet is only $11.95. Dinner is served 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Midha and Chopra invite greater Princeton area fine diners, Indian food enthusiasts, and hungry students to visit Mehek in Princeton, and to look for their other Mehek restaurant when visiting Baltimore.

Mehek Fine Indian Dining. 164 Nassau Street, Princeton. 609-279-9191.

Jack’s Cafe/Taste Appeal Catering

Coming in the New Year, Jack’s Cafe

A metropolitan cafe will open in Hamilton Square January 2007, offering an inviting atmosphere and approachable food for breakfast, lunch and take-out.

Jack’s Cafe, named for owners Kathy and Alan Newman’s 13-month-old son, will provide not only tempting fare, but a state-of- the-art catering kitchen for the couple’s flourishing business, Taste Appeal Catering.

“We’re moving everything to Jack’s Cafe at 2445 Kuser Rd, Suite 101,” said Kathy Newman. “Our new location will be at the corner of Kuser Road and Whitehorse- Hamilton Square Road (behind the Yardville National Bank). This step forward will enable us to significantly broaden the scope of service we offer to our clients.”

Newman describes Jack’s Cafe as a relaxing and casual destination for breakfast, lunch or anything in between. The setting will be warm, with Mahogany featured prominently throughout, including the walls, chairs and tables with copper inlays. The chairs and floor will be adorned with designs and patterns, adding an element of texture. A three-sided stone fireplace will undoubtedly be the focal point, while complimenting the seating area of comfortable leather chairs, with some space to spread one’s wings – and log-on to the WiFi connection. Interesting wall decor and hanging copper pendant lights will complete the scene.

But the atmosphere is only half the story. The cuisine will reflect the Newman’s eclectic, personal style. The offerings will change often, rotating around a diverse core of what will be the cafe’s mainstay selections. Newman says they’ll provide continental breakfast food as well as egg sandwiches and brioche. Signature sandwiches, paninis, soups and salads will drive the lunchtime, along with cookies, pastries, cakes and other baked goodies. Counter service will be offered to foster the casual atmosphere.

“We’ll also sell gift items, such as cooking utensils, aprons, cocktail napkins and all things food,” Newman added. “And in keeping with our catering roots, we’ll be offering complete meals-to-go alongside our own soups and salads for people to pick up at their convenience. We’ll have everything someone may need, right through to dessert, for every night of the week.”

Jack’s Cafe will be open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch. Newman is considering opening on some holidays, such as Mother’s Day, for brunch and dinner.

Taste Appeal Catering will continue to offer its signature service: event planning. Taste Appeal Catering handles events of any size, and has access to many venues. Newman explains that they have created some great partnerships, and can direct clients to just the right setting for their special event.

“When you work with Taste Appeal Catering you need only show up and have fun,” Newman explained. “Our main objective is to make planning an event as easy as possible for our clients by arranging the entire party including food, servers, chefs, bartenders, table settings, entertainment and decorations.” And, while Taste Appeal Catering does not have a liquor license, its bartenders can serve liquor purchased by the client.

Newman invites area residents to watch for the Jack’s Cafe Grand Opening in January 2007, and to contact her for catering parties large and small.

Taste Appeal Catering. 609-324-1705. Fax 609-360-0229.

Seafood Cottage

Original Hong Kong-style fresh food

A new family restaurant has opened in North Brunswick that serves up authentic Hong Kong-style cuisine in a casual, comfortable atmosphere.

Seafood Cottage is family friendly because it’s family run, according to manager Jimmy Hui. He proudly notes his father is the head chef and his mother the second chef. This is the Hui family’s fourth restaurant endeavor, having successfully served communities in Manhattan, Staten Island and Pennsylvania.

“Our chef — my dad — has been specializing in a variety of Asian food styles for more than 30 years,” Hui said. “He prepares food in any style, so the meal you get at Seafood Cottage is exactly as you want it.”

Hui is quick to point out that Seafood Cottage is not like other “chain Chinese” restaurants. Seafood Cottage serves fresh, prepared to order, original dishes.

The restaurant’s menu supports this unique style. There’s a Crispy Filet of Flounder with Fresh Garlic and Pepper, and Soft Shell Crabs with Salt and Pepper. Lobster is available Cantonese Style, or with ginger and scallions, or as the diner requests. Guests can enjoy Breaded Salmon Szechuan Style, made with snow pea pods, fresh mushroom, and a sweet, sour and spicy sauce. There’s Vancouver Crabs, steamed with ginger and garlic, or cooked with ginger and scallions, or fried garlic and salt and pepper. Vegetarian and non-seafood entrees also are available, such poultry, beef and pork, as well as a Crispy Peking Duck covered in oyster sauce, scallions and cucumber.

“Most dishes can be changed to suit your taste,” said Hui. “We can make it more or less spicy, or offer vegetarian options.”

Seafood Cottage’s hearty menu provides plenty of starter options. Besides appetizers and soups, the restaurant serves more than 40 varieties of Dim Sum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All Dim Sum plates are $2 each, enabling curious customers to sample several of these delectable dishes. Those with “room left” can enjoy a dessert.

To make sure everything is super-fresh, the Huis purchase vegetables, seafood, meats and poultry daily en route from Brooklyn, N.Y., to North Brunswick. This means the variety is great and freshness is guaranteed.

Seafood Cottage prides itself on its reasonable prices. Lunch Specials start at $5.25, and include an entr‚e, Pork Fried Rice and soup. Diner Combos start at $7.25, and include an entr‚e, Egg Roll, Pork Fried Rice and soup. Hui says most of the menu can be prepared as a Lunch Special. He also highly recommends the noodle soup and pan fried noodle, two of the chef’s specialties.

All Seafood Cottage’s original cuisine is available for catering and private parties. Families, companies and groups can have food catered to their site, or can book part of the restaurant for a private party, birthday or special event. Hui says catering and private party prices are “extremely reasonable.”

Seafood Cottage is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Specials are available seven days.

Seafood Cottage. 1000 Aaron Road, North Brunswick. 732-821-2133. Fax: 732-821-2135.

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