1) Happy Lamb Hot Pot: Edison, NJ

I wanted to start the article with a local spot close to my university. My standards for hotpot are respectfully high since my mom makes it from scratch, but this spot is a decent substitute in her absence. My family has taken me to this spot a few times since I’ve been at school, and it’s one of the better Asian restaurants in the area if you know what to order.

For my sauce, I like mixing a bit of black pepper paste, soy sauce, chili oil, and a little bit of black vinegar. I throw on a healthy amount of scallions on top for a little something extra. We usually opt for the VIP package, which may sound financially daunting, but it offers the best dollar value since the restaurant is all-you-can-eat. With this package, we got an unlimited supply of the freshest shrimp and meat. We get the shrimp at the VIP counter which is much better than the buffet shrimp. For our meat, we order lamb, Angus steak, Wagyu beef, and ox tongue (might seem a little intimidating but it tastes just like steak).

At the buffet, we usually grab bok choy, cabbage, dumplings, udon noodles, crab sticks, octopus, and fish cakes stuffed with roe. With three people, the bill total came out to just barely over $100. Considering the amount of food we ate and the quality of it, the VIP package is an insanely good deal. It’s not life-changing or anything, but for a spot close to school, this pick is not bad at all.

Julia Seebach

2) Kawa Ramen House: New Providence, NJ

The ramen at this establishment is pretty good, but what they’re famous for is their pork katsu. I like their curry katsu, but my favorite is their little box of katsu, rice, sour plum, and their famous katsu sauce. It’s a smaller restaurant, but what they lack in size they make up for in flavor. I like to accompany my dish with a Thai tea and call it a day. Overall, I consider it one of the great Asian restaurants in New Jersey.

Julia Seebach
Julia Seebach

3) Mitsuwa Marketplace Food Court: Edgewater, NJ

My family and I have been coming to this food court since I was born. That being said, the three places I would give my life savings to save (god forbid they go out of business) are the ramen bar, the katsu restaurant, and the fish cake stand. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s a food court, this is not mall-type food. These are real restaurants that pack every order with love, flavor, and warmth. While other spots around this food court have great Asian restaurants, these are the places I'm most familiar with.

The katsu stand is on par with Kawa Ramen House. If you’re looking for new places to try, this is always a comfortable option. I like the package of miso soup, rice, and pork katsu. The fish cake stand makes fish-shaped pastries filled with a sugary-sweet red bean filling that I’ve loved since I was a kid.

Finally, the ramen booth is one of my favorite ramen places of all time; this ramen spot is up there with the establishments that I've visited in Japan. Their spicy ramen and shoyu ramen are consistent stars with me. I haven’t been back since I’ve been to college, but I’m so excited to. The broth has a rich, meaty flavor. The meat is so tender, and their vegetable accompaniments complement the dish so nicely. I love getting a soft-boiled egg with any ramen; the spicy version is my favorite, but the shoyu is just as good.

Julia Seebach

4) Ani Ramen, NJ

There are multiple locations scattered around the state, but the two best locations that never fail to deliver a flavor punch are Maplewood, NJ, and Montclair, NJ. I’ve been visiting the Montclair location since my family moved to the town over a decade ago. The owner is a very nice, welcoming person whose disposition extends to the vibe of the whole restaurant.

My favorite order includes chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken), edamame, and spicy ramen with a soft-boiled egg. This spot has been reformulating its recipes for the past few years, which I don’t understand because, in my opinion, I don’t get why they’d mess with success. The quality hasn’t been as consistent the past few years, but maybe that’s because I got spoiled and accustomed to their mind-blowing quality a few years ago. It’s still an amazing spot. There are very few misses on the menu if any at all. If you’re a ramen beginner looking to up your game, this is the place to begin.

Julia Seebach

5) Joe’s Shanghai: Chinatown, NYC, NY

I’m apprehensive to even share this spot because it has been the best gatekept location of my life. I’ve had soup dumplings all over Asia and all over America. This restaurant’s soup dumplings are genuinely the best in the world. My qualifications to make this statement stem from my travels to dumpling spots all over Taiwan, China, LA, New York, Japan, Korea, and my own Asian household.

I will die on the hill that this establishment’s dumplings outdo any restaurant located in all of the places I've mentioned.

I won’t explain how they taste because words cannot do it justice. Just go and order the pork soup dumplings and thank me later. Don’t disgrace this place by ordering a typical Chinese takeout item like orange chicken.

If you’re looking for real Chinese food: my family has had the same order for the last 20 years: 小笼包 (soup dumplings - they come out burning hot, you have to bite a tiny hole in the side, pour out the soup on your spoon, and eat each component of the dumpling separately until it's safe to eat. If you don't care about your mouth burning!), 上海猪炒面 (Shanghai noodles with pork seen in the article's cover picture), 四季豆 (green beans), and pea sprouts/shoots (pictured below). Add a dash of vinegar to all, and these dishes are tried-and-true masterpieces. 

It's one of my few true 10/10 spots and definitely one of the best Asian restaurants in NY. They always deliver the same quality whenever I go.

Julia Seebach
Julia Seebach