Given that the holidays are almost upon us and a lot of us are going to be running back and forth to the grocery store to get provisions for the entertaining, dining and self-medicating we’ll be doing for the next few weeks, it makes sense that some higher-end grocery chains are putting in restaurants — to keep shoppers fueled while they peruse a cavernous cornucopia of wares.
Out in Cherry Hill, N.J., the Whole Foods market has partnered with premiere area sushi provider Genji — the talent behind successful ventures like Hai Street Kitchen — to open Genji’s Ramen Bar at its store at 1558 N. Kings Highway, giving shoppers easy access to authentic Japanese ramen dishes. And if all you know about ramen is the cheap food staple that got you through your cash-strapped college days, you definitely need to try the real deal.
Genji has had success with ramen bars in other states, like Connecticut and Virginia, especially near communities looking for authentic, quick and affordable Japanese comfort food. To that end, the menu is simple and efficient. Start out with their lovely hibiscus iced tea. We wished we could have purchased a gallon of it to take home. Genji’s Tonkotsu ramen ($11.99) is its standard, with pork broth, thin noodles, a bowl of sesame seeds that you can grind and apply to your liking, a marinated boiled egg, seaweed and locally sourced veggies. A spicy miso version of the dish ($11.99) is available too, and it’s flavorful without being too aggressive. But if you really want to kick up the spice level, the chef will oblige you.
Genji also offers three types of steamed bao buns ($3.99). We tried the Chashu pork bun, which was soft, tender and tasty. The shrimp tempura boa buns were even better, crispy with big, spicy flavors.
If a steaming, savory, hot bowl of ramen isn’t your style, try the dry-style ramen called “mazemen.” Made with thick wheat noodles, the dish, like the ramen, is available in a vegetarian option. We opted for the house favorite, the bacon and egg mazeman ($11.99), topped with a poached egg, a spring mix and tomatoes. While not as Japanese in its flavor profile as the other ramen dishes, the poached egg gives the dish a comforting creaminess that blends well with the saltiness of the bacon and the freshness of the greens.
Genji’s Ramen Bar is quite the nice culinary oasis in what is sure to be a swirling hotbed of holiday consumerism this season.