A Ramen Romp With a College Crowd

Wall cartoon at Ramen Gami Japanese restaurant in Newark, New Jersey
Wall cartoon at Ramen Gami in Newark
Photo: Andrea Clurfeld

We slip into Ramen Gami, a bustle of activity in the heart of University Heights in Newark. On this weeknight, it’s packed with students fueling for finals on bowls of ramen, stuffed buns and colorful sushi rolls.

There is no hustle here, but there is Bobby, impresario of the small dining room. It is set with basic tables and bordered by counters for window-side chowing.

Practically everybody’s a regular at this relative newcomer, eight months old. They know the noodles are delicious, the broths slow-cooked and layered with flavor, the buns addictive and the sushi rolls inviting.

Bobby somehow finds us seats amid the collegians. We order chai siu buns crammed with pork and slaw, bean curd buns layered with sheaths of gently fried tofu and slaw. They emerge from the kitchen quickly.

We are delighted: The buns fluffy, the proteins rich with soy, the cabbage crunchy, the spiced mayo dressing pitch-perfect. They come together in bites that please every taste bud.

Tonkatsu ramen at Ramen Gami Japanese restaurant in Newark, New Jersey

Tonkatsu ramen

But it’s the ramen bowls that most resonate with me. My favorite, tonkatsu ramen, is a sensuous pork and chicken broth garnished with black mushrooms for a gratifying counterpoint of earthiness.

From the list of add-ins, I pick pork, with its sweet-smoky notes, and just for fun request a smack of heat in the form of chili sauce.

I discover I have another favorite—shoyu ramen, with a soy and chicken broth that begs for slivers of tangy beef to run the table on taste. I plead guilty to Ramen Gami Gluttony.

Don’t leave Ramen Gami without trying the miso ramen, the gentle giant of the bunch. Its chicken broth is divinely delicate and it’s the version in which the garnishes that come with all ramens—bamboo shoots, fish cakes, scallions and seaweed—best strut their stuff.

I love it with an add-in of marinated egg, which the chefs manage to cook so that the white just firms while the yolk remains runny.

If you like your noodles fat, there’s udon as well. It’s served in a dashi-kombu broth replete with red ginger, fish cakes, scallions and seaweed.

Udon ramen at Ramen Gami Japanese restaurant in Newark, New Jersey

Udon ramen

I recommend ordering tempura shrimp to set atop the whole shebang. Why not?

Though ramen is the main game, Bobby clues us that the students fortifying themselves tend to grab a sushi roll as starter or closer.

We try both the Hawaii Roll (tuna, avocado, crab, cucumber) and the Ningyo Roll (same fillings in different proportions, differently composed). Good, but not as distinctively delectable as the marquee ramen.

We close with mochi in a host of flavors: vanilla, mango, chocolate, black sesame, green tea.

I have another new favorite at Ramen Gami—black sesame mochi.

Ramen Gami, 1 Sussex Avenue (at the intersection of Central Avenue and MLK Boulevard) in Newark. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 973-622-2888 ramengami.com

Photos: Andrea Clurfeld

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