Friday, 9 April 2010

Ajisen Ramen, Regent Arcade

Ajisen Ramen is a Japanese owned chain of ramen restaurants. For a number of years, the Leigh St outlet has served up probably the best darn ramen in Adelaide. They’ve recently opened up a new store in Regent Arcade. I was keen to test how the new outlet stacked up against the old one.

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish with its origins in Chinese cuisine. Noodles are served in a flavoured broth and often topped with pork, chicken, seafood and even bloody corn. Almost every area in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu ramen of Kyūshū to the miso ramen of Hokkaidō. Ajisen offers around 20 different types of ramen.

To make my comparison, I ordered my regular Ajisen meal: fried squid tenticles, Tori Karaage (fried chicken) Ramen and a ramune (Japanese lemonade).

Crunchy and tender, the squid here was easily as good as the squid from Leigh St. For visit to flavour country, douse the squid with a squeeze of fresh lemon and dip into the thick and rich Japanese kewpie mayonnaise.

The ramen was equally good, except for one aspect...

...the karaage was massively overcooked. Everything else was great. The veggies were fresh and crisp (and there wasn't any corn). The seaweed was delicious. The egg was eggy. Sprinkled with fried garlic, the broth was easily as good as Leigh St, possibly better. But the whole dish was let down because the chicken was dry and chewy. I hasten to add that in the many times I have eat at Ajisen Ramen, this is the first time I have been disappointed.

No ramen lunch is complete without a ramune. The blue ramune is lemon-lime flavoured and slightly sweeter than Western lemonade. It comes in a bunch of different flavours. I've only seen strawberry and melon, but I'm told you can get it in flavours like kimchi, wasabi and curry. Ramune is well known for the design of its bottle, and the drama of its opening. To open the bottle, a plastic nub is used to push the sealing marble into the neck of the bottle, where it stays during drinking.

The colleague I dined with ordered a fried tofu bento box. I'm told the tofu and seaweed salad was delicious. He let me try once of the grilled shitake mushrooms, which were smoky and satisfyingly meaty.

In short, I love Ajisen. And despite the overcooked chicken, I'll be back.

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