We’re back with another exciting ramen quest! This time, we went to Ajisen Ramen in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Ajisen’s first location was founded in 1968 in Kyushu, Japan. Now there are over 600 locations all over the world! What would we find at this restaurant? Read on to find out!
Let’s start with what we enjoyed. Ajisen has a very nice interior space. The walls are adorned with paintings of sumo wrestlers. Large bamboo stalks cross the ceiling setting the tone of the restaurant. There was plenty to look at while we were waiting for our food.
The service is friendly and attentive. Our server seemed particularly polite and accommodating. The restaurant also was not crowded, which may have had something to do with the fact that we went there on a Sunday night. In any case, we were able to sit and talk for awhile after eating our food versus the many other places we’ve been to where you are encouraged to eat quickly and vacate (often due to the many other people waiting to eat).
We really liked the fried chicken appetizer. In fact, this was the highlight of the meal. The outside was nicely breaded and the meat itself was tender and juicy. The breading didn’t have a lot of extra seasoning on it, but it was served with lemon and a sweet chili-style dipping sauce. Also, the portion was very generous.
However, the ramen at Ajisen needs some work. Sophia had the regular Ajisen Ramen and I ordered the Deluxe Ramen, which came with extra pork chashu and a “pork tender rib.” We enjoyed certain aspects of our pork-based soups. The broth had a nice creaminess and texture to it, but otherwise was not as flavorful as desired. It was missing the salty, deep, meaty quality that defines a great bowl. Besides the creaminess, it tasted kind of bland. The soup was also not very hot when it was served. Maybe they didn’t want customers burning their mouths or something, but it was very odd to us. When your soup comes out lukewarm, it gets cold fast, and ours had become notably cold after a few minutes of slurping.
Our ramen also did not seem to have enough broth to account for the toppings. The bowl felt imbalanced because of this. On the other hand, the kitchen gave us a lot of toppings (scallions, seaweed, bean sprouts, and boiled egg), which made the bowl feel like a hearty meal. The toppings themselves were good overall. The chashu was flavorful and juicy. The scallions, seaweed, and bean sprouts all seemed fresh. I wasn’t a huge fan of the rib that came in my bowl – it tasted gristly and lacked flavor. The noodles themselves were also a letdown. They were way overcooked and came out soggy and soft. Not good when they’re one of the main components (maybe the main component) of any bowl of ramen. By the end of the bowl, they were too soft for me to enjoy. Sophia agreed that hers were also overcooked and negatively impacted her enjoyment.
So what’s the grade? Ajisen has plenty going for it. It’s in a busy, easily accessible neighborhood in Manhattan. It has cordial and laid-back service with a well-decorated interior. Certain aspects of the menu are very good; such as, the fried chicken and the affordability. However, the ramen leaves much to be desired. The broth needs a flavor upgrade and should be served at a hotter temperature. The cooks also have to shorten the cooking times on their noodles or risk having every bowl devolve into a soggy mess. We give Ajisen Ramen 3 stars out of 5.
PS – If you’re still not quite at a food coma level after your bowl of ramen (or really need a sweet treat/self care item after this week with all the wildness in the US), we really recommend trying out Taiyaki NYC, right near Ajisen and Bassanova. These Instagram-worthy ice creams are half taiyaki and half soft serve with extra treats on top. Featured below is a soft serve of black sesame and green tea accompanied by a wafer and colorful mochi.
PPS – We’ve been debating making some adjustments to our blog for awhile. We’ve finally decided to change our posting style and approach to make the blog more accessible. Have no fear, it’ll still be the same Julian and Sophia that you know and maybe even trust at this point. Not giving up too much, but starting with our next post, you’ll be seeing a lot more of us. With that said, thank you as always for reading this! Your support and views mean a lot to us.