The newest quick-service meal option at Whole Foods' Glastonbury location is as far from a college dorm staple as you can imagine.
Genji, the vendor that supplies Whole Foods with its sushi and Japanese cuisine, has added a new ramen bar to the dine-in offerings at the Glastonbury store. It's the second ramen bar in the country for the company, which opened its first in Fairfax, Va. four months ago.
"We've been working on ramen for probably about a year, just to get it really right and special," said Steve Shatford, Genji's North Atlantic regional operations manager. The Fairfax store's introduction of the traditional Japanese noodle soup was "extremely successful," he said, and the Glastonbury store was targeted for the addition because of its ample seating area and the necessary equipment already in place, like a pasta cooker and flattop grill.
Genji's menu presents freshly prepared tonkotsu-style ramen ($11.99) with a pork broth base and thin noodles, chashu pork, bean sprouts, scallions, black mushroom, marinated boiled egg, mayu, red ginger and seaweed. Variations include shoyu (soy sauce) and spicy miso, which Shatford said is a best-seller. There's also a vegetarian version ($8.99) with veggie broth and steamed mixed veggies. Extras, including kimchi, sprouts, boiled egg and additional noodles or proteins, are available for 50 cents to $3.50.
Genji also offers two types of mazeman, or ramen noodles prepared with a sauce instead of broth. The rich "bacon and egg" version ($11.99) with thick whole-wheat noodles, dashi cream sauce, bacon and poached egg, is "sort of like a carbonara," Shatford said. There's also a cold vegan mazeman ($8.99) with a creamy sesame sauce, avocado, vegetables and tempura flakes.
Steamed whole-wheat bao sliders ($3.99) with grilled chicken, chashu pork and shrimp tempura are new to the snack menu, along with hot green tea, matcha sweet tea and hibiscus iced tea. Noodles, broths and sauces are produced in a central facility in the Bronx, Shatford said, and shipped twice weekly to each store.
In its first few weeks, Shatford said the Glastonbury store has received "great feedback" on the ramen bar addition.
"It's not 'five for a dollar in the pre-packs,'" he said. "People in here can see people slurping up the bowl, tipping it up, make sure they get every last drop. It's very visually appealing." Ramen bars are planned for several more Whole Foods locations in the next few months, he said, including Portland, Maine; Germantown, Md. and Cherry Hill, N.J. Glastonbury is the sole Connecticut location to have the ramen bar.
Whole Foods Glastonbury is at 55 Welles St. 860-652-9800, wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/glastonbury.