Supermarket or Restaurant? Tam Tam Ramen Pushes the Boundaries
Joining Mill Valley’s culinary scene is the new ramen restaurant Tam Tam Ramen. The restaurant is a collaboration between Whole Foods and Genji, a Philadelphia- based company that operates sushi bars in over 190 Whole Foods across the country. This restaurant is their first venture selling food together outside of the traditional Whole Foods store.
The Whole Foods connection is easily recognizable from the second you walk in the doors. The grab-and-go shelves lining the left wall hold many Whole Foods products including drinks, snacks, and to-go meals. Unfortunately, the supermarket vibes carry through to the restaurant, with bright fluorescent lights and vibrant green decor. In fact, it felt like I was eating a sit-down dinner in the middle of a Whole Foods Market.
The menu, which is dominated by ramen, as it should be, offers six types of ramen bowls, ranging in price from $8.99 to $14.99. In addition to the ramen bowls, the restaurant offers four varieties of bao sliders, Asian steamed white buns with some type of filling, which are two for $7.00, as well as some “small bites,” including grilled edamame and pan fried gyoza, a Japanese dumpling.
I ordered at the counter, where you can choose between the to-go option or eat in. We chose to eat in, which unfortunately meant some time spent standing, due to the lack of adequate seating. It wasn’t even a busy night, yet we had to wait about 10 minutes for one of the tables to open up for my group of four.
We started with the pork bao sliders. The sauce was tasty, but the buns weren’t fluffy like they should be, and the meat a little bland.
Then came the ramen bowls. For what you’re paying, you sure do get a big enough portion. The large ceramic bowls were filled to the brim with fragrant broth, noodles, and toppings. Between the four of us, we ordered half the varieties of ramen on the menu.
The Yuzu chicken-chicken broth with fresh noodles and chachu roasted chicken-was bland from the watery broth to the tasteless chicken.
The Tam Tam Ramen-rich tahini spicy tonkstuku broth with ground pork and fresh noodles-lacked spice. When ordering we requested “the spiciest one on the menu,” and this bowl certainly did not meet those expectations. In terms of flavor however, the broth was perfectly seasoned and was creamy with a hint of sesame. The noodles were cooked well, with a little bit of an eggy chew.
The best of the three we ordered was definitely the Original tonkotsu. The soup was creamy and rich and the spice level was just what we wanted-hot but not overpowering. The flavorful broth was addictive, especially with the texture of the noodles as well as the variety of the toppings, including roast pork, black mushroom, and seaweed. The Original Tonkotsu was the perfect comfort food and definitely a bowl of ramen worth coming back for.
Mill Valley has been longing for a ramen restaurant, and Tam Tam ramen has come to quench our ramen thirst. Although it feels more like a supermarket than a restaurant, it is well priced and definitely a good, warm comfort food during the rainy season. But in terms of a cold treat-don’t be fooled by the mochi rip off price on the menu-1 mochi for two dollars?! Just buy a pack of six at Trader Joe’s for as little as $3.49! ♦