If dinner hasn’t made you smile in a while, go to Nori in Montclair or Caldwell tonight and order the Halloween roll. Kamilla and Vinnie Liu’s sushi chefs combine pepper tuna, asparagus, pumpkin and tobiko into a roll that looks for all the world like a deconstructed jack-o-lantern but tastes much, much better.
Seasonal sushi is just one of the surprises at Nori, a two-restaurant chain owned by the Lius, who moved to Verona in 2007. They had been cruising garage sales and stopped at one in Verona that just happened to be located next to a house that was being renovated. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Lius have built Nori’s reputation on the strength of its sushi, but the menu is deeper than that, spanning Japanese cuisine from hibachi grilling and Teriyaki to tempura, udon noodles and sukiyaki. “When people think of Japanese food, they often don’t think of all the cooked food,” says Kamilla. The menu also includes other Asian flavors, like Thai curries and Indonesian sambal oelek. And like many restaurants these days, Nori is seasonal: In addition to the Halloween roll, there’s a Maple roll on the menu now that pairs lobster, cucumber, avocado and pepper tuna with a special mango sauce; look for holiday-themed rolls in December.
You can taste many of these flavors on Nori’s new lunch special menu. For $12.95, you get appetizer, soup, salad and your choice of two rolls from a list of about 20 of Nori’s best. “We want to give people a chance to taste all the food,” says Kamilla. And if your morning schedule leaves you rushing to make lunch, that’s not a problem at Nori. As long as you are in before 3 p.m., you can order off the lunch menu. Flexibility is key to managing the restaurants now, since shifting exchange rates have made many of the ingredients that the Lius need much more expensive.
Running two restaurants that are open seven days a week and having two small children gives Kamilla Liu plenty to do, but she also makes time for one other thing that is close to her heart: Teaching Chinese at a weekend school. “It is a busy schedule,” she concedes, “but it is satisfying.”
406 Bloomfield Ave, Caldwell, NJ 07006, 973-403-2400
561 Bloomfield Ave, Montclair, NJ 07042, 973-655-8805
Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3 pm.
Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 3 -10:30 p.m – 10pm; Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 3- 10 p.m.