It’s no secret that I love soup, but I have a total soft spot in my heart for Ramen. For those of you who live under a rock and don’t know what Ramen is (or think it’s the brick of salty shit you get from 7/11), crawl out from under and join the table because I’m about to blow your mind right now.
Ramen is a traditional Japanese dish consisting of a clear broth containing thin white noodles and sometimes vegetables or meat. That’s not my definition, I ripped that from Dictionary.com but you get the idea…basically it’s a giant bowl of deliciousness. Dictionary.com obviously isn’t that familiar with Ramen because the traditional stuff has noodles, broth, mushrooms, and pork belly at the bare minimum but people have taken that basic dish and totally ran with it. I’ve tried everything from curry ramen to spicy miso and the stuff just gets better and better.
Yesterday I had the chance to go and stuff my face with deliciousness at a new(ish) ramen place that opened up in my hometown, Montclair. If you’re EVER in the North Jersey area I’m going to put it out there that you need to go to Ani Ramen. Like, NEED to. There’s no other option but to drive there and eat because it’s that fucking life-changing. Let me tell you why.
When you walk in, the place is loud and crowded (always a good sign). There are traditional tabletops lining the rim of the dining room seating four tops and two tops, but down the center of the room is one long picnic-style table that you sit at cafeteria-style. You’d think that would totally kill your vibe, but we actually got to talking to the two guys who sat down next to us after we finished and they ended up to be really nice. So. Don’t be a bitch and you’ll probably be fine. Plus, how rad is this lighting concept?
Our server was a total sweetheart even if the kitchen was super obviously overwhelmed. The menu offers small plated appetizers as well as amazing Japanese sodas…we (my trusty eating companion known as mom) started off with Chili Charred Edamame that literally blew my mind. They steamed the edamame to perfection then threw those bad boys in a Chili oil to give them a little heat. They charred them up on the grill and I kid you not when I say that my mom had to fight me off from eating all of them because they were just. That. Good.
Next we splurged on a Shrimp Bun special appetizer that was easily the most delicious shrimp appy I’ve had ever. Two super soft and fluffy buns are split down the middle, then stuffed with panko breaded shrimp and a chipotle mayonnaise sauce (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what it was, I was in such a state of food coma that I don’t actually remember for sure. Oops. Sorry.) My mom and I each had one, and they were the perfect two-bite app that didn’t fill us up too much before our gigantic bowls of noodles made their way to our table.
Pro tip: order by the number on the menu.
Her bowl had noodles, chicken, and pork all piled high with pickled veggies on the side that were totally killer. I got the house special #6, noodles in a traditional pork broth with spinach, mushrooms, and pork. The portion sides were perfect, if a little on the large side.
Pro Tip: Bring a takeout container, they don’t have any for leftovers.
All in all, our entire dining experience was great. Our servers were friendly, and we enjoyed the cafe-life eating style. Warnings though; this place is definitely loud, service (while nice) is slow, and because of the hubbub of noise and excitement we found that we ate way faster than we normally do. Like, WAY faster. Take that for what you will, but the bottom line is this place is worth the trip out to eat at. I don’t think there’s a single bad thing on the menu, and that’s pretty impressive.