One of my biggest short comings as a college student is that I don’t really eat ramen. Most of my bag soups are just standard chicken broths with dumplings, and the first time I ever had ramen (at a KSA event), I was way too bold, and had a bad experience. This turned me off from ramen for a while, until I had some chicken flavored ramen at a friend’s house, and the rest was history. Complicated relationship aside, I had the STRONGEST craving for ramen after hearing some friends talk about it. Knowing Vivi’s Bubble Tea had a robust ramen selection, my friend and I caught the red line and went for a ride.
Vivi’s Bubble Tea is best known as the first bubble tea-focused place in Hoboken before Kung Fu (panda) Tea opened up on 6th and Washington. Bubble tea, for those that haven’t tried it, is basically sweetened milk tea with tapioca “bubbles” that are the namesake of the drink. However, while Vivi’s has some of the best bubble tea in Hoboken, they also have a rather large selection of savory options, which include ramen, rice dishes, and “night market” snacks. Perhaps my favorite part of their menu is the “heat” scale they have when you order food; the first 5 options are all normal spice descriptions, while the final 3 are demarcated by a thick black line with the warning, “AT YOUR OWN RISK”. Given my experience with KSA events, I decided to not press my luck with anything hot, and ordered a Red Tonkotsu Ramen normal spicy with a curry popcorn chicken. My friend ordered a mild Shoyu ramen and a large Taro slush.
The curry popcorn chicken came out first and was everything I had hoped it would be. First, it was fried expertly, staying light and crispy and not heavily oily. The seasoning was also on point, having all the subtle intricacies of curry; spicy, savory, slightly bitter, and leading to a sweeter aftertaste. After that, my friend’s taro slush came out, holy moly. Already, I had thought taro bubble tea was the peak of human civilization, but I was wrong. It’s actually taro slush. I can only assume Vivi’s has a Stevens alum as a consultant, because that drink was amazing. First off, the slush is just more refreshing, almost like a milk shake. Second, the taro flavor was much more intense and rich. Needless to say, I’ll probably only ever buy slush drinks now, so hopefully the rest are as good as the taro.
After coming back to earth from the taro slush, I was just in time for my Red Tonkotsu. Never having eaten ramen in anything other than a plastic cup, I was almost overwhelmed by how good my dish was. Starting with the broth, I was met with an incredibly savory, spicy, and fulfilling taste. After that I moved to the wood ear mushroom, which, while sounding like something you wouldn’t want to scarf down, was actually one of my favorite parts. The tough, resilient, chewy texture of the mushroom absorbed all the flavors of the soup, and was nice break to the heat of the broth. Continuing with the vegetables, I tried the narutomaki, kombu, and nori next. The kombo and nori were both very refreshing breaks from the brought of the soup that brought a saltier and more textured bite, while the narutomaki was delectably savory with a fishy flavor. Finally I got around to the pork chashu, the main meat of the dish, which literally melted in my mouth in a wonderful mix of saltiness, savoriness, sweetness, and heat. Slurping the thick, delicious noodles that had soaked up every flavor present, I was ready to pass out from the shear quantitiy of food I had just ingested. If there was any ramen that was going to turn me into a ramen fiend, I would assume I had just found one of them.
However, I still had one more dish to try, which was my friend’s Shoyu Ramen. While the dish was as excellently made and tasty as the Red Tonkotsu, there were some notable diferences that I wasn’t expecting. First, the broth was much lighter and more delicate than the red Tonkotsu, making it much more friendly to drink in large quantities. Secondly, the meat present was chicken chashu, which also lent itself to a lighter flavor while still being just as melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Finally, the Shoyu ramen had spinach in it as well, which lent the dish overall more texture. If you are sensititve to heat or heavy soups, the Shoyu ramen is definitely for you. Although to be fair, even if you aren’t, it still is. The shoyu is delicious.
Overall, Vivi’s Bubble Tea is true to its name, but they might want to consider changing their name if they keep making so many great options.