Saturday, December 11, 2010

Restaurant Review - Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen - Adelaide 23 Leigh Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8410 2088

Well as a change of pace, today we present a short restaurant review... Ajisen Ramen here in Adelaide (actually there are two stores here, but we've only been to the Leigh Street one). The restaurant is actually fairly well known not only in Japan, but all around the world. It started out in the Kumamoto region in Japan...and spread progressively from there.

This was our fist visit to the Leigh Street Ajisen Ramen... for lunchtime. Our first reaction was that whilst Leigh Street has a very nice feel to it, it's still a little out of the way. At least on the weekend... during the weekdays, it's most probably well situated for lunchtime business crowds. Also, street signage could be improved a lot - not very distinctive, and unless you know that it's there, you could easily walk past.

On entering the restaurant there was a muted "Irrashaimase"... which is an almost universal cry of welcoming that you hear in Japanese shops. In fact, it can be quite unnerving the first time you go to Japan and you walk into a shop to be almost assailed by a sudden eruption of "IRRASHAIMASEEEEEEE!".  Anyhow... today was rather quiet - and you could be excused for not noticing.

On to the food... I thought I'd try out the namesake - Ajisen Ramen noodles... which are Kumamoto-style ramen. My impression was that I was expecting a stronger taste - however Kumamoto-style ramen is supposed to be milder in flavour. It was nice... but it wasn't a revelation. Having said that... it's been ages since we've found decent ramen noodles in Adelaide. And sometimes you have to put some reality checks on your expectations. And in all honesty, neither myself nor T-chan are familiar with Kumamoto-style ramen.... so we can't claim that it is/isn't authentic. The noodles themselves are quite different to the ones you'll find say in Sapporo... these were almost spaghetti-like.

And there's one thing to know about eating Ramen... eat it noisily. That's right, noodles are one of those things that the Japanese have allowed themselves to drop all pretense of reserve over. They eat ramen with gusto. Supposedly, there's a very good reason for this. Ramen should be eaten very hot, and the slurping-sucking-gargling noise that is made as you suck noodles (and air) into your mouth all goes to cool down the noodles whilst maintaining the flavour. It also adds to the sensory delight of eating... 

I'd also ordered some yakitori... but was somewhat underwhelmed. The presentation was not bad with the small salad to the side... however, yakitori is not haute-cuisine... IMHO it's beer food, the sort of thing you'll see a salaryman eating of an evening... it's cheap, and it's supposed to be super oishii. This was ok, but the marinade was not particularly clear.... and unfortunately the chicken was slightly over-cooked.

Now here's a small truth... T-chan is (like many Japanese) a bit of a ramen-snob. By that, I mean that she's a ramen fanatic at home in Sapporo... and flatly refuses to eat Sapporo-style miso ramen outside of Sapporo. In fact, there's often family feuds in Sapporo about which shop in Sapporo makes the best ramen... and it can get ugly at times. Wars have started for less. So today, T-chan tried one of the Bento boxes instead. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before she buckles under the weight of her need for ramen... she's just not there yet.

The bento consisted of:
Gyouza (a Japanese variant of a chinese dish)
Yakitori (skewered grilled chicken...we didn't realise that when I ordered)
Karaage (fried chicken)
Salad and rice.

The food was reasonable, and whilst T-chan thought that it was ok for Australia, she was a little bit disappointed. Having said that, it's a case of comparing with what else is available. Ajisen Ramen generally gets very good reviews here (especially from Australians as compared to Japanese). 

So overall - our reactions were this... out of 5 (*) stars.

Location :  **
Atmosphere : ** 
Staff : **
Flavour : ***
Value : ***
Overall : ***

Location :  **
Atmosphere : ***
Staff : **
Flavour : *(*)
Value : *
Overall : **

T-chan is definitely the hardest marker of the two of us.

So I would say, give it a go. It's not going to be like going to Japan. In fact, at least the serving staff were not Japanese from what I saw... (apologies if you were). It may not be super oishii... but, if you're hanging out for a decent ramen in Adelaide, then it's worth it. They're open 7 days for lunch, and every day except Sunday for dinner. My recommendation would be try them for lunch first. The atmosphere's a little sparse for a nice dinner out, but for a good hearty bowl of ramen noodles for lunch it would be hard to beat in Adelaide. The Lunch we had (ramen + yakitori + bento + coke) came to around $32AUD... but if you have an Entertainment Book, you'll get 25% off on presentation of the coupon.

Let us know what you thought...

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  1. I have only heard of Ajisen Ramen, which we do not have in Kofu.
    Good to know that you have one in Adelaide. How large is the Japanese community there, by the way?
    Practically, every Japanese is a Ramen critic. I understand T-chan from Hokkaido, known as a food kingdom, has her own opinion.
    When Katya arrived in Japan, she was annoyed by the Ramen sound in the restaurant. I do not know how much she got used to it, but with her, I still eat Ramen with saving a noise.

  2. There's most probably something like several thousand Japanese in and around Adelaide at any one time... but many of them would be international students. That makes it a fairly small core community.

    Yeah... ramen is close to religion in Japan (you're right - especially in Hokkaido). You quickly learn not to question taste... And I have also learned to be a noisy eater; but I'm still a learner when it comes really making a loud noise.

  3. It is good that still there are Japanese in Adelaide for L-kun and T-chan.
    In the Kofu area, there are less than ten Russians. Katya must feel lonely once in a while. I think the internet helps her.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your review. Funny, after having been here for 18 years, I, too, have become a ramen snob. LOL. Because ramen most is good, but good ramen is heavenly. Honestly, if I ever went back home, the ramen would be the thing I miss first and most. For Christmas Eve dinner we make our own turkey ramen here at home. AAHHHHH!

  5. Angie... why not. If I had the chance to enjoy ramen when and how I wanted (as you can in Japan), I'm sure that I'd be more than happy to become a fellow ramen-snob.

    The idea of turkey ramen is intriguing... and I hope that you are planning on posting about it!