First Impression Miso Ramen

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Miso Ramen is the latest restaurant to open on Newark Avenue. As its namesake suggests, the restaurant specializes in ramen taking great pride in its house-made noodles and unique broths. Like most just-launched restaurants, Miso Ramen has a few minor kinks to work through, but overall it’s an excellent, budget-minded option for ramen fans who don’t want to trek across the Hudson for their ramen fix. The restaurant is also BYOB friendly.

Design-wise, you’ll be hard pressed to find any traces of the former general discount store that occupied Miso Ramen’s space. Instead you’re greeted by warm lighting, an exposed brick wall, and a spacious wooden, communal bar. Tables are evenly spread and although it can get crowded, the noise level is low, which means it’s easy to hold a conversation.

Since the restaurant is still in its soft opening stage, it’s very likely you’ll have to wait to be seated. The wait times weren’t so bad when I went (under 30 minutes for a table for two, under 10 minutes for a spot at the bar around 6.30pm on a weeknight). However, you may be seated faster if you opt for the bar, which is spacey and just as comfortable as one of the tables.

Service is friendly, but there is definitely room for improvement. The front of the restaurant, for instance, is very chaotic and gets backed up with customers very easily. That said, the host performs an excellent job of handling all the incoming foot traffic and checking in on diners who’ve already been seated. Once seated, expect to wait awhile for your food. At times dishes from the kitchen are served as they’re ready. For example, the couple next to me got their ramen dishes served at least 10 minutes apart, which is never ideal, but something I wouldn’t worry too much about since this is something the kitchen can easily remedy.

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As for the food — the dishes I tried were worth the wait. The vegetable dumplings are an excellent appetizer. They’re perfectly crisp along the bottom, but soft and light at the top. Their presentation, however, could be improved. They were served as one big sheet of upside down dumplings with no explanation given as to what vegetables they were filled with.

When ordering a ramen entree, your first decision is to decide on a broth. The broths range from salt, tonkatsu (pork), or miso. If you’re not familiar with the broths, you’ll have to ask your waiter for a run-down of the differences, as they don’t explain anything beforehand. (You can also consult the menu, but it doesn’t mention the specific broths). I opted for the seafood ramen (in miso broth), which is simmered with squid, mussels, shrimp, and scallops. Toppings include bamboo shoots, scallions, mushrooms, sesame seeds, and a soft boiled egg. Portions are generous and the thin, house-made ramen noodles are undoubtedly the star of the dish. The noodles are of the straight variety and cling together easily delivering plenty of flavor with each slurp. The broth also has a fresh seafood intensity.

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The mushroom ramen (in miso broth) is made with kikurage and golden mushrooms. At $12, it’s one of their less expensive ramen entrees, but don’t let its price fool you. It’s just as filling as the seafood ramen. Vegetarians might want to inquire with the kitchen as to which broths are vegetable-based.

Miso Ramen offers a few bottled teas and sodas, but there are no signs of a dessert menu at this moment. Likewise, I was told there are no current plans for a take-out option, although I expect that will change with time. With regards to price, an appetizer and two ramen dishes came out to just shy of $40, making it one of downtown’s better dinner deals.

Overall, Miso Ramen is off to a great start. As expected, there are a few early hiccups, but nothing that should keep customers away. On the contrary, the ramen dishes are worth a visit on their own.

Miso Ramen | 189 Newark Avenue | www.ramenmiso.com