130 Bourke Street
For a self-confessed Japanese Food lover, it’s almost a travesty that I haven’t yet been to Ajisen Ramen, one of the biggest ramen chains in the world. They have locations world-wide, but I was surprised to read that they have more branches residing in China than Japan (thanks Wiki!). And being such a big franchise, it’s inevitable that you hear about them every now and then. Some reviews were fabulous, others, not so much. I have even seen it being called ‘the McDonalds of ramen’ at one point. And tonight, I was finally about to find out for myself just what this place is like.
For a restaurant specialising in ramen, the menu is jaw-droppingly long. A folder with pages upon pages of ramen, ramen variations, rice, bento boxes, Japanese snacks and more were handed to us. Thankfully we knew what we wanted – their signature Ajisen Ramen ($9.00). We spent a little longer deciding on an entree to share, and we settled on the Geso Karaage (Deep Fried Octopus Tentacles, $6.50), before handing the menus back to the efficient, but friendly waiters.
|Ajisen Ramen ($9.00)
Within no more than 5 minutes, the ramen was carried out of the kitchen, and to our table. The creamy broth and the fatty (but not too fatty) slices of char shu certainly looked the part, but I was disappointed with the over-boiled egg. A sip of the soup revealed a rich porky and garlicky flavours, though tasting more Chinese than Japanese. The noodles were delightfully springy, and there were also some black fungus swimming in the soup. Chilli powder and garlic powder sat to the side, should you wish to add more oomph to your noodles.
|Geso Karaage ($6.50)
|For $6.50, we got quite a lot of octopus. And in most cases, increased quantity leads to reduced quality. Not that these were terrible or anything; they were hot and crispy, but the octopus tentacles were leaning towards the ‘too-chewy’ end of things. But they also gave us Japanese mayo, and Japanese mayo fixes EVERYTHING.
Walking into the restaurant, you could immediately feel the chain-ness of the place, from the mascot standing just inside the entrance, to the tables lined up food-court style. But the space is far from tacky; as a matter of fact, it was spacious and dark, and dare I say it, moody? A view into the kitchen also helped alleviate the mass-produced feel of chain stores. And the food? Whilst more Chinese than Japanese, it was definitely nice tasting, and with a $14.50 lunch set that comes with a ramen and an entree of your choice (except the really expensive ones like sashimi), I can definitely see myself coming back on a cold winter’s day.
Rating: 14/20 definitely not a McRamen