The cold weather and Robert Sietsema’s Village Voice article on ramen in NYC motivated me to find New Jersey’s best bowl. Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater pops up quickly in any search for the best Japanese food in New Jersey. We went last weekend, and were rewarded for the trip to Bergen County. The bowl of pork ramen pictured above catapults Mitsuwa’s food court to the top of my Japanese favorites list.
Japanese cuisine is much more than sushi and hibachi. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find top quality versions of other Japanese dishes at many Japanese restaurants this side of the Hudson. The food court at this Japanese supermarket is a wonderful exception. Here, you will find food stalls devoted to ramen (thin noodles in a meat or fish-based broth), udon (thick noodles), tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork), tea, sweets and other Japanese specialties.
Mistsuwa can be intimidating on the first visit. Don’t be afraid. The marketplace is easy to navigate after you get your bearings (see the floor plan below) and everyone speaks some English. Parking can be difficult on weekends, but like any supermarket parking lot, spots do open up. Once inside the main doors, the supermarket is on your right, the food court is on your left, seating area straight ahead.
The challenge in the food court is deciding what to eat from which stand. There are many choices. The cash-only Santoukaramen stand has the longest line, for good reason. Place your order for Soy, Salt, Miso, Spicy Miso, “Melty” (Special) Pork, or Roasted Pork Ramen at the counter, pay about $10, take your number, and have your companions score some seats while you wait for the individually assembled bowls of steaming goodness.
My Miso Roasted Pork Ramen featured substantial slabs of pork belly, a creamy and complex miso-based broth, lots of ramen noodles, mushrooms, scallions, fish cake and a few other ingredients I couldn’t identify. The result is a very staisfying bowl of ramen. It’s one of those ethnic specialties I can’t hope to replicate at home, even with my Momofuku cookbook close by.
The dumplings from the Japanese/Chinese stall (Tokyo Hanten) are very good, but we didn’t care for the fried rice. The varied deep fried panko-covered proteins (tonkatsu) being passed across the Katsuhana counter looked very good, but we were too full after the ramen to try them. We did squeeze in tea-flavored soft-serve ice cream from the Ito-En stand for dessert, for the kids, of course.
After you eat, you can hit the supermarket for all kinds of interesting Japanese groceries. The meat and sushi counters are very busy. One aisle features Japanese beers and a wide variety of Sakes for sale, at all price points. The largest Japanese supermarket chain in the United States, Mitsuwa has five locations in California and one in Chicago. Edgewater, NJ is the only East Coast Mitsuwa location. It is well worth a visit for Japanese food fans.