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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ajisen Ramen, Haymarket Chinatown

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.

Miso soup

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.

View Larger Map

Ajisen Ramen
94 Hay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9211 8380

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Japanese ramen -- Ajisen Ramen, Haymarket
Japanese ramen -- Ichi Ban Boshi, Sydney (Feb08) and (Aug05)
Japanese ramen -- Menya Japan Noodle Bar, Haymarket
Japanese ramen -- Ramen Kan, Haymarket (Aug 05), (Nov 04)
Japanese ramen -- Ryo's Noodles, Crows Nest (Mar08), (Aug07) and (Jul07)
Japanese ramen -- Tokyo Ramen, Hornsby
Japanese ramen -- Zenya Noodle Bar, Eastwood

12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/30/2008 11:59:00 pm


  • At 1/31/2008 5:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've never heard of Ajisen but it looks pretty good. My favorite ramen chain is Ippudo which serves tonkotsu ramen from Hakata. Delicious stuff. Check out IppudoNYC.com for more on this topic.

  • At 1/31/2008 12:36 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is there a sudden explosion of Uyghur restaurants in Sydney? Are they the latest thing?

    On a separate note, I see February is truffle month at Becasse...

  • At 1/31/2008 1:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    mmm tofu heehee i like watching the bonito flakes move its like theyre alive! how come cucinarebecca doesnt post on her blog anymore?

  • At 1/31/2008 3:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sigh, wish we had that particular chain over here in California. Looks delicious!

  • At 1/31/2008 8:27 pm, Blogger panda said…

    heya helen! i keep walking by the place when i'm going to work; was wondering if it was any good. sounds like it was rather disappointing!

    fyi, you can buy ajisen ramen refrigerated noodles at most chinese grocers...they're actually quite good for cooking at home!

  • At 2/01/2008 2:38 am, Blogger obachan said…

    OMG! You have ajisen ramen over there? There's one very close to the language school I work at night, and I have to resist the temptation of ramen, gyoza AND beer on my way home.

  • At 2/03/2008 11:06 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ramen - You sound like you love your ramen. I didn't spot Ippudo when I was in NYC but thanks for the tip.

    Hi mr_gimlet - lol. It did seem like there was a Uyghur restaurant population explosion last year :)

    And truffle month? Oh dear... *counts pennies*

    Hi chocolatesuze - lol. The bonito flake dance is always a meal highlight :) Cucinarebecca got caught up with work :(

    Hi foodhoe - I'm sure there'll be an outlet coming to you soon :)

    Hi Panda - I was happy with my meal; just unsure whether I'd trust the bento box, or the agedashi tofu! The soft shell crab was a winner.

    Hi obachan - lol. Ramen, gyoza and beer sounds like a very tempting combo :)

  • At 2/07/2008 7:11 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I could use some right about now. hahha!!

  • At 2/13/2008 10:14 pm, Blogger red bean said…

    Coincidentally 2 days ago, on my stopover at Hong Kong airport I had a craving for some Ichi Ban Boshi ramen after watching Japanese food shows on the plane, so I chanced upon an Ajisen Ramen. I guess there is no comparison, the chefs were all Chinese but they were wearing these cute trendy bandanas.. I ordered a chili beef ramen, which came with a side of really chili kimchi, which was really a mistake because everything was HOT. I was watching them prepare it (quite quickly for 7 in the morning), and it was basically noodles, soup with a huge tablespoonful of chili sauce, and throwing the ingredients on top which meant none of it really absorbed the flavours. The noodles are chewy, and I had to keep wiping the chilli oil that was burning my mouth..

  • At 2/18/2008 1:31 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mama Bok - lol. I could always use some deep-fried soft shell crab :)

    Hi Red Bean - Ooh nothing worse than too much chilli for one's palate - it really does inhibit one's natural enjoyment. Sounds like you plowed on regardless. Good for you :)

  • At 1/25/2009 10:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i went here with my japanese friend but we were both disappointed, it didnt have much taste and my friend was quite disappointed

    sydneyguyrojoe(sorry i have major probles logging in)

  • At 1/26/2009 6:31 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi sydneyguyrojoe - Thanks for the feedback. Sometimes I do wonder if chain restaurants compromise on flavour, or is it just that family-run busineses have an extra dose of love?


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