Foodie Hotspot: Aarzu Modern Indian Bistro
When I was probably 8 years old, I remember going to the “Arts, Beats, and Eats” festival back in Michigan with my mom. Metro-Detroiters will remember back in the day when it used to be in Pontiac. It’s now moved to my former hometown, Royal Oak.
Like a lot of summer festivals, this had local artists, music, and a ton of food from local restaurants (hence the name, right?).
My mom went over to one of the booths to get some food. It was for a local Indian restaurant, Priya in Troy, MI. She had no idea her 8-year-old daughter was about to devour all of her chana masala. This is when my love affair with Indian food began.
To me, this cuisine has it all: the spices, the flavor, the color, the aroma! It really just lights up my tastebuds.
Since moving to New Jersey, Anton and I hadn’t found a spot that we really LOVED yet. One of his good friends recommended that we try Aarzu in downtown Freehold, NJ, especially for their lunch buffet.
We had been talking about going for weeks and finally decided to go for it today on Anton’s day off.
Immediately when I walked in I knew this place had to be good. The smell permeating the air was amazing. My mouth is watering still thinking about it. (I know, I’m a foodie freak.)
The ambiance was lovely — very trendy decor with rich jewel tones catching the eye from the velvet chairs and curtains. The half-moon booths looked cozy for larger parties and the lighting was cheerful and friendly as was the staff.
When we sat down, we were offered a wine list as well as all of the non-alcoholic beverages. Anton and I went with non-alcoholic because they just sounded amazing. He got the Sangria and I got the Mango Moscow Mule and coffee (surprise, surprise!)
The drinks were so fresh and had so much flavor. The mule was tropical and refreshing and the sangria was tart and fruity. The coffee was delightful, too. I especially loved the presentation. It came in a beautiful teal teapot with a cup and saucer and a small pitcher of cream.
Aarzu offers a lunch menu with the usual appetizers, soups/salads, entrée, etc. Or you can choose from two buffet options - the Bottomless Veg Thali or Bottomless Non Veg Thali. I chose the vegetarian option and Anton went with the latter.
First off, this is not your typical buffet experience, which I thought was fabulous. They bring out these beautiful metal plates and then they bring out your food served in little bowls in a half-moon shaped tray so that your plate can fit inside and you can plate your food however you like. They also provide lemon, red onion, and a pickled veggie (that I didn’t catch the name of) so you can add different flavoring to your food as well — I thought this was a nice touch.
In the buffet you receive “an unlimited helping of the chef’s selection of two veg curries (or non veg curries) of the day, appetizer, raita, lentil, rice, bread & dessert.” I honestly have a difficult time naming my favorites because everything was delicious, but I really loved the vegetarian take on butter chicken because that is a favorite of mine. This one was made with Paneer (an Indian farmer cheese). It was melt in your mouth perfection.
I wasn’t the only one enjoying every bite. Anton was loving everything about his dishes as well. There was a potato and pepper dish that was so flavorful and full of spice, I wish I could cook this stuff at home. Aarzu, if your chef ever has a cooking class, please let me know, I will be the first to sign up!
We finished off our meal with the dessert — Gulab Jamun. Which are basically little deep fried donuts made of dried milk and dipped in a syrup. Um, hello! My jeans were about to bust open at the table just looking at them, but you bet I ate them and had several more bites of the other dishes.
If you want more, your waiter is more than happy to bring you over another round of your favorites or all of them like Anton and I did. What can I say, we love to eat! I especially appreciated the level of service brought to Aarzu’s “buffet” experience.
I should also mention that their lunch buffet is only available Tuesday-Friday. And you cannot beat $11.95 for this level of service, atmosphere and quality of food. At least not in my book.
So if you are ever near Freehold, NJ and you’re a lover of Indian grub like me, please pop in and give it a whirl. Your tastebuds will thank me for it, even though your jeans won’t.