Ani Ramen in Jersey City is the Newest Hot Spot in the NJ Food World
By Jennifer Shanteau
Had I not been carpooling through Jersey City a few months ago on a trip back from DC, and witnessed how adorably quaint it was, I would not have even considered going all the way out there to sample a ramen restaurant. Thank goodness I did, because this fairly new ramen place, (which opened this new location in April) was insanely good! I’m talking coming all the way from Astoria and being directed the long way around to avoid crazy traffic, and taking an hour and a half to get there good. Ani Ramen was by far the best part of my day today. Everything I put in my mouth had my eyes rolling back into my head with superb satisfaction. I’m crazy stuffed, but if you put this exact meal in front of me right now, I would gobble it up a second time like the glutton I am.
They really know what they’re doing here at Ani Ramen. All of their expertise from their first location in Montclair, NJ has been refined, perfected, and put into play here. No part of my dining experience was overlooked. The food, the drinks, the service, and the atmosphere itself were purposeful and well thought out. Upon entering, I was impressed with the modern, upscale design. I felt like I was in a “cool” place…..cool, but without being pretentious. It’s casual enough for family dining, but hip enough for a date.
I brought my four year old daughter, and had no problem finding things for her to eat on the menu. They even offer “chopstick helpers” if they see you may be in need. This is just one example of the attention Ani Ramen pays to detail. They notice if you’re in need of something. They notice everything. The service is beyond amazing. If I were the Queen of England, I couldn’t have been better attended to. Having spent many years in the service industry, I am beyond picky about the service I get. Didn’t refill my water? Points taken off. I had to look for you for any reason? Points taken off. Didn’t make me feel like I’m your favorite customer? Points taken off. No points were taken off here…..none.
Just wait ‘til you see this food! One of the first things they brought out was one of their daily specials….Kimchi Buns. They also offer these soft, magical buns in the staple pork, shrimp and tofu. The second I bit into these, that hour and a half drive melted away. The buns were like clouds, and as I bit down, the sumptuous filling dripped down my arm.
I rarely order Gyoza, but their Crispy Gyoza was the best I’ve ever eaten. I usually find Gyoza to either be too soggy, or too tough on the outside, and rarely am I impressed with the filling. These were perfectly cooked, and the filling actually had so much flavor, I only dipped it in the sauce it came with ever so slightly, because it was straight up delicious without it.
One of my favorite things on the menu, and I can’t believe I am saying this, is the Chicken Wings Two Ways. If I would’ve had this kind of chicken earlier in life, I would’ve eaten pounds of it! I’ve had so many bad chicken experiences, that at one point, I just stopped eating it…..for years. To this day, many people know me as the girl who doesn’t eat chicken. So, for me to proclaim this was one of my top dishes is just crazy to me. It was spicy and sweet and crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. I stripped the bone! There wasn’t a crumb big enough for the whos’ mouses left.
You can’t go to a ramen place and not order ramen, right? I mean, I’m such an appetizer/small plates type of gal, I actually could, but it just seemed wrong. Besides, noodles, chicken and eggs are all things kids like, right? I did have my daughter with me. They offer six different types of ramen, with chicken, or pork, or vegetarian, spicy or not; and even one without broth. I was picturing walking in here on a cold winter day. This would hit the spot. Seeing how its only the second day in September and a mere sixty-five degrees and rainy outside, I don’t think I was too far off. One of the bonuses of this dish is that it’s quite a portion! Three of us split this and I still had enough leftover worth taking home. Of course, we did eat all of that other amazing food, and we did order an extra bowl of noodles. That’s another bonus. You can order an entire bowl of noodles for only three dollars extra! You’re basically doubling your meal here. I’m so throwing an egg on this and eating it for breakfast.
I’m told they routinely serve edamame as a bar snack in Japan, which is brilliant, of course. After all, salty food makes you want to drink more. Edamame is one of my favorite guilt free, “go to” snacks at home. Heat them up with a little oil and salt, and that’s it! At Ani Ramen, they go way farther than I ever have by adding a tasty spicy mix to the dish….kicks it up a notch, for sure. It’s so healthy, you can eat an entire bowl full of them and not feel guilty….at least that’s what I told myself after I ate an entire bowl full of them.
Speaking of cocktails, my favorite subject, the entire time I was at Ani Ramen, I kept thinking, this is such a great place to come and perch at the bar and drink and nibble. I sampled three of their cocktails. (I only drank one, I swear, even though it is New York, and New Yorkers do drink on Saturday afternoons. Well, technically it’s New Jersey, but whatever.) If you’re a rye fan, go for the New Jack City, (Applejack, Rye, Japanese Plum Brandy and Sweet Vermouth). If you’re a gin fan, go for the Shiso Cucumber Sour, (Gin, Cointreau, Lemon, Chili, Cucumber and Shiso). If you want something a touch sweet, but not too sweet, go for the Matcha Milk Punch, (Vodka, Sencha Green Tea, Matcha and Light Cream). The Match Milk Punch was the perfect way to end the meal. My kind of dessert! I preferred the Shiso Cucumber Sour, but that’s just my kind of drink…..I love anything with lemons or cucumbers. Honestly, I would drink all of them. You know what I appreciated? They were real drinks….no crappy mixes. All the ingredients were high quality and fresh.
If you find yourself in Jersey City, don’t miss the opportunity to dine at Ani Ramen. The food is really phenomenal, the service is stellar, and the atmosphere is cool. The only thing I don’t like about Ani Ramen is that they aren’t in walking distance to my place! Perhaps, there is hope for a third location in the future? If anyone from Ani is reading this…..please come to Astoria! We need you!