Spicy soft shell crab $6.90
or included with Ajisen ramen set
It's amazing, sometimes, how fast Chinatown can change from one moment to the next. I had been meaning to visit Taklimakan Uyghur restaurant for some time, when just before Christmas it closed*, and then within weeks the site had been totally made over into a new Sydney outlet of the international ramen chain Ajisen.
Founded in Kumamoto, Japan in 1968, Ajisen Ramen serves the famous Kyushu ramen, a thinner style of noodle that is a specialty of the Kyushu region.
Today, Ajisen outlets can be found in China, the Unite States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Canada and Malaysia. We know this thanks to the giant world map painted inside, helpfully splashed across the entire length of one wall.
Service is a tad too chirpy and a couple of octaves higher than our usual register, but our server gracefully smiles each time we send her away requesting "just two more minutes to look at the menu". There are oodles of options!
Twenty three different ramen dishes can be found on the laminated photographic menu, including a spicy looking volcano ramen ($11.80), the intriguing sounding tenderous ribs ramen ($11.80) and a surprise cross-cultural appearance of tom yum ramen ($11.80).
Beef teriyaki bento set $13.90
includes miso soup
Cucina Rebecca goes out on a limb and orders the beef teriyaki bento set, one of only four bento sets on offer. It's a brave move that, alas, isn't rewarded. The beef teriyaki is strangely dry and decidedly chewy, tasting as though the dish had been pre-cooked and re-heated. I'm not a fan of the deep-fried gyoza dumplings, preferring the silky smooth kind with the crispy pan-fried bottom, but Cucina Rebecca thinks these are the highlight of her bento set.
Halfway through her bento and mid-spoonful of her accompanying miso soup, our side order of agedashi tofu arrives. The tofu parcels look a little sad and deflated and although the slivers of bonito shavings put on a brave dance, the agedashi sauce is thin and watery, without the starchy stretchy stickiness we'd both been so looking forward to.
Agedashi tofu $5.90
Thank goodness for the spicy soft shell crab. My Ajisen ramen set comes with a free entree, and the baby crab morsels are perfect - super crunchy and dusted lightly with Japanese chilli powder.
Ajisen ramen set $14.80
includes choice of: takoyaki, soft shell crab, spicy soft shell crab,
gyoza or karaage;
and either iced lemon tea or hot green tea
The Ajisen ramen arrives in a luminous and deep black noodle bowl. The noodles are deliciously chewy, the pork slices are tender, and the soup stock is reasonably tasty if a tad oily.
Ramen good. Bento not-so-good. Service is super speedy but worryingly so.
Now if only I'd had room for the Calpico soda. Japan is all about ramen, but sometimes it's also about Calpico, in original, grape, lemon and strawberry.
*Taklimakan Uyghur can now be found at Level 1, Shop 4, 90 Hay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney.
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94 Hay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 8380
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1/30/2008 11:59:00 p.m.