Food & Drink

Column: Ramen Nagomi Elevates a College Student Staple

Burnt Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen: Niman Ranch pork bone stock seasoned with shoyu and burnt garlic paste, along with Niman Ranch pork belly slices and hanjuku tamago Credits: Devin Healey
Diners chat over a meal at Ramen Nagomi Credits: Devin Healey
Nagomi Shoyu Ramen: Shoyu seasoned free-range certified humane Amish Chicken broth, slow-braised Niman Ranch pork belly, hanjuku tamago nori Credits: Devin Healey
Pork Floss Bao: Shredded Niman Ranch slow-simmered pork belly served with cucumbers and sriracha mayo sauce served in between freshly steamed buns Credits: Devin Healey
Takoyaki: Octopus-filled, wheat-batter-fried fritters, with classic toppings such as katsuobushi (dried smoke skipjack flakes) nori threads, seaweed flakes, Japanese Kewpie mayo and okonomiyaki sauce Credits: Devin Healey
Ramen Nagomi Credits: Devin Healey
Ramen Nagomi Credits: Devin Healey
Ramen Nagomi Credits: Devin Healey
Ramen Nagomi Credits: Devin Healey

Note: This is a column by food writer Devin Healey. Manager Tim Wong was so gracious with his time and in-depth in his responses that this story on New Brunswick’s popular noodle shop will run in two parts on TAPInto New Brunswick. This is part one.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — I love ramen. I crave it. When it’s cold outside, when I’m sick, when I’m hungover. Several years ago, before it crossed into the mainstream culinary landscape, I barely knew anything about ramen beyond the instant stuff you could buy for 99 cents at any corner bodega. But now, after cultural behemoths like Momofuku, Totto, and Ippudo became institutions, and especially after Ivan Ramen’s spotlight on “Chef’s Table,” the soul-soothing noodle is at the forefront of North American Asian cuisine.

You may be familiar with Rai Rai Ramen on Route 27 in North Brunswick (across the street from Luca’s, the focus of a previous post), which has been a Middlesex County go-to for some time now, even following a disastrous fire several years back. At the time, Rai Rai Ramen was a newcomer in the area, which has since been inundated with almost every imaginable type of Asian cuisine.

Sign Up for E-News

When Chef Owner Sebastian Karyadi opened Ramen Nagomi last year on Bayard Street in New Brunswick, he added something to the increasingly diverse Hub City food scene that was sorely missing. The Rutgers University undergraduate population is over 25 percent Asian or Asian-American, and Middlesex County’s is nearly as high. This is not to say that ramen is exclusive to an Asian-American demographic, but coupled with its surge in popularity in the canvas of the American food scene, Ramen Nagomi couldn’t have picked a better time or a better location.

And what’s a surer sign of success than opening a second—and a third—spot? Later this year, Karyadi plans to launch another restaurant in New Brunswick and a sushi joint in Princeton. But more on that scoop in a little bit.

Soft Shell Crab Miso Ramen: House miso crab paste and vegan dashi broth, served with whole fried soft shell crab, hanjuku tamago (marinated soft boiled egg) and nori. Credit: Devin Healey.

Half a block from George Street and near the heart of New Brunswick’s busy downtown, the subterranean Ramen Nagomi is anything but out of the way. A beautiful, brightly decorated space with playful decor welcomes diners, regardless of whether they’re ramen amateurs or pro slurpers.

I’ve visited on multiple occasions to sample small plates, ramen go-tos and deeper cuts. I’ve never left unsatisfied, with an empty stomach, or with a significantly lighter wallet. (Ramen Nagomi is BYOB, in case you were wondering.)

Recently, I spoke with General Manager Tim Wong via email to pick his brain about the restaurant, the New Brunswick food scene, and the future of Ramen Nagomi.

Note: Wong’s responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Ebi Katsu Shrimp Bao: Panko-crusted fried shrimp patties with a yuzu kosho mayo, in between freshly steamed buns. Credit: Devin Healey.

CougEats: When did you first open and how has the reception been? New Brunswick has a very diverse food scene, but it seems that ramen is one cuisine that was underrepresented, especially now that it's getting so popular with non-Japanese diners.

Tim Wong: Ramen Nagomi opened on April 24, 2016. When we first opened, many of our initial customers didn’t have much exposure to ramen beyond instant ramen. The initial reactions were part curiosity and excitement, however, our guests were completely open to something different than what New Brunswick was offering. We certainly didn’t have lines out the door when we first opened, but looking back it was definitely a good thing because we were able to grow the restaurant, find our rhythm, and develop our menu from the feedback of our guests.

CE: Can you explain the different types of broth? Which is your personal favorite? What seems to be the most popular?

TW: Ramen is like Italian pasta in the sense that there can be multiple, if not infinite, variations of the types of noodle used and the sauce or broth paired with the noodles. In Japan, every region has its own distinctive style, much like how American barbecue has distinctive regional styles. One region might be known for using a thin straight noodle. Another might have a preference for thick and curly.

Ramen Nagomi opened with the intention of serving a light, clear-style broth ramen, or “assari” style, paired with thin straight noodles. This style of ramen is great for highlighting delicate flavors and ingredients, which is why our assari style broths are produced using locally sourced, free-range chickens and cooked at below simmering for hours.

As the restaurant grew, we developed our menu to focus on more on a heavier style with bolder flavors, which is great for the colder seasons, such as our Spicy Miso Ramen, Tori Paitan (milky chicken broth) Ramen and Tonkotsu (milky pork bone) Ramen. These broths tend to have a stronger flavor with more richness

Credit: Devin Healey.

CE: Do you do anything differently in your broth prep (that you can reveal, of course) that sets you apart from other ramen restaurants?

TW: At Ramen Nagomi we’re focused on producing the best product we can at a price that makes sense for our customers. We adhere to the Japanese cooking philosophy of honoring and showcasing quality ingredients. This means sourcing quality ingredients produced locally when possible (which Jersey has an abundance of), as well as ingredients that are raised humanely, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. We have immense respect for the care it took for our ingredients to be produced, and we try to honor our ingredients by cooking them in a way that produces the best flavor, which means being considerate of cooking times and temperatures, like having our chicken broth simmered slowly for hours or having our pork bone broth cooked at a rolling boil for hours to extract as much goodness we can.

This eventually comes down to the presentation of the bowl as well. After all, we all eat with our eyes first. - END

Ramen Nagomi has taken the New Brunswick food scene by storm and has no plans of slowing down. Indeed, you heard it here first: Nagomi is about to welcome two new restaurant ventures to its budding family. Wong said they plan to open Poke Nagomi in New Brunswick this winter and Nagomi, a sushi restaurant in Princeton, in the late fall or early winter

For Poke Nagomi and Nagomi, Karyadi and Wong are collaborating with Chef Yoshiki " Riki" Matsubara, formerly of Los Angeles’ K-Zo and Nobu Las Vegas, as well as Jeffry Undiarto, chef and general manager of Los Angeles’ n/naka, which you may be familiar with from season two of “Chef’s Table.”

According to Wong, Matsubara and Undiarto have known both him and Karyadi for a long time and have always wanted to develop something together. Wong’s only wish is that people will enjoy the new restaurants as much as they enjoy Ramen Nagomi.

Credit: Devin Healey.

Considering the success of New Brunswick’s new favorite noodle joint, I have a hunch that both Poke Nagomi and Nagomi will be equally beloved.

Keep an eye out for part two of our Ramen Nagomi feature, where we get to know Wong, his background in food, and the Ramen Nagomi family. In the meantime, why stop in and get yourself a bowl of ramen at 49 Bayard St. in New Brunswick, where they just announced extended weekend hours in advance of Rutgers’ fall semester. Just be sure to call ahead. With ramen this good, there’s no such thing as a slow night.

Devin Healey knows food and drink. In addition to writing columns for TAPinto New Brunswick, he runs a blog network called CougEats. You can find more of his work on Facebook and Instagram.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - June 22, 2018

TRENTON - Well, the state Legislature passed a budget yesterday. But that matters little in the overall drama, as it now goes to Gov. Phil Murphy and his sharp red pen. The governor still remains as odds with his Democratic counterparts who left a meeting with him yesterday claiming no progress. He's "completely dishonest with us," charges Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Jaffe Briefing - June 21, 2018

TRENTON - No one questions that the state pension system is a mess. And that's why some proposed legislation is getting a critical eye. Politico says the Assembly is set to vote on a bill today that it claims is "expressly written" to fatten the pensions of Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-Essex) and state Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) without them having to ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 20, 2018

STATEWIDE - What? So you are saying the state's pawn shops, second-hand stores and scrap metal yards are mob-infested? How could that possibly be? Well, just ask the scrappy State Commission of Investigation, which issued the 100-page report yesterday detailing how the mob is encouraging drug addicts to steal items to fuel this in-the-dark industry. Not only are these ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 19, 2018

TRENTON - It is June. That must mean our state lawmakers are yelling at each other over the proposed state budget, which must be adopted by the end of the month or government shuts down. Some media is refraining from coverage of the daily blow-by-blow, as the typical resident just assumes taxes will go up, no matter what. But, here is the latest. Gov. Phil Murphy has his proposed ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 18, 2018

DOWN THE SHORE - If you see all those mega-mansions on the beach, and admit to being just a wee bit jealous, here's something to quietly smile about: All of those glorious homes will likely be underwater.  NJ Spotlight reports rising sea levels make the New Jersey coast particularly vulnerable, with the Garden State ranking second to Florida with the biggest chronic risk ...

The Jaffe Briefing - June 15, 2018

JERSEY CITY - Should topless women be allowed in the city?  That's the big issue consuming the City Council these days, as members continue to debate 1980s-era obscenity laws. There was supposed to be a vote at the council meeting on Wednesday, but it didn't happen. Before there is a vote, it appears the goal is to wrangle support of all nine members of the City Council. The nagging ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, June 26, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...


Wed, June 27, 7:00 PM

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater

Somerset Patriots vs. New Britain Bees Baseball ...

Wed, June 27, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Two to Feature Vivaldi ...

Arts & Entertainment

Rutgers-led “Tick Blitz” finds exotic Longhorned Ticks statewide

June 5, 2018

New Brunswick, N.J. - Researchers at  University–New Brunswick’s Rutgers Center for Vector Biology have found exotic longhorned ticks in four New Jersey counties – and confirmed that these northeast Asian ticks have been present in the Garden State since at least 2013.

The new detection of these ticks in Mercer County was made through the first-ever statewide ...

Rutgers football stadium has a new name

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Many still call it Rutgers Stadium.

But for seven years, the university's football stadium has been known as High Point Solutions Stadium, thanks to a $600,000 annual agreement with a Sparta-based company. But, as the company has shifted its marketing, so has the stadium's name.

So, now, Rutgers is officially home to " Stadium" for the 2018 ...

Composer lyrisicist Sondheim at Rutgers, tells would-be writers ‘it’s hard work’

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Acclaimed Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim says his work is less about talent and more about the labor and drudgery of “hard work.”

“It’s not about waiting for inspiration. It’s not about talent,” Sondheim said Friday while speaking before an audience at Rutgers University’s Nicholas Music Center.

“You ...

City recognizes New Brunswick ball player inducted into women’s Hall of Fame

June 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ  - Chris Dailey grew up in the city, and played basketball for St. Peter's High School and  Rutgers University, and was on the team that won a national AIAW championship her senior year in college.

She became an assistant coach at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., then was an assistant to Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz before becoming an assistant coach on ...


New Brunswick journalism teacher offers thanks

June 22, 2018

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick,

As the year comes to a close, I want to offer you my sincere thanks for how you positively impacted my students this year.

In their end of year reflections, the students recounted what it meant for them to get their stories published.  Assignments were no longer something just connected to a grade, it was also connected to their passion.

The positive ...

Promise Culinary School Slates Open Houses June 21 and 22 In New Brunswick with Tours, Tastings, Prizes

June 20, 2018

Promise Culinary School will host open houses for the community and prospective students on Thursday, June 21, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and on Friday, June 22, from noon to 4 p.m. at 211 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick. The events are free and open to the public.

The events will include kitchen tours, demonstrations, tastings, raffles and prizes. Tours and activities will be ...

Ensure Safe Sleep While Traveling with Baby

June 6, 2018

As we approach the summer, there will be plenty of expected travel for families, from visiting grandma at the beach to heading out on a long, well-deserved vacation. 

When staying overnight at a friend’s or family’s place, it is important to maintain the same sleep practices as you do at home. Your baby should be sleeping in a safe, modern crib that meets the latest ...