Ajisen Ramen

211 La Trobe St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Date visited: 22nd Oct 2012

I haven't been to Ajisen Ramen for over six years, since a friend brought us there and I found I wasn't particularly a fan of the ramen broth.  Tastes can change over time, so when we saw the new branch of Ajisen Ramen opening at Melbourne Central, MerlinFan and I said we should come and give it another go one day.

Today was the day.  I was back after being back and forth from the country for work so many times I barely had time to relax and unwind - I came back after a four hour journey by train to finally do my taxes and then have a late lunch in the city.

The interior of Ajisen is dark and moody, with dim lighting and wooden tables and chairs.  The waitresses call out a greeting from the cashier as you enter and join you at your table with menus.

Somehow in my sleep deprived mind (yes, I was up at 5am to catch my train and starving!) I mistook the Samurai Combo (see below from their website) for Ramen + Entree + Tea for $5.50 and ordered that.  I was thinking was this like a super tiny combo or what?  I even told MerlinFan that I bet it was like one takoyaki or gyoza or something for the entree, so it would be great for a cheap eat.

My tiredness (and probably hypoglycaemia too) was to blame - what was MerlinFan's excuse?

Anyhoo, I had the Houjicha (roasted) Tea and MerlinFan had the Green Tea.  It came perfectly burning hot and we both enjoyed the toasty, nutty flavours.  The Green Tea was slightly nicer in our opinion.
Green tea, Houjicha tea
As soon as our entrees came out, we knew instantly we must have been mistaken about the Samurai Combo - there was no way it could be $5.50 by the size of the entrees!  

I had the takoyaki - there were about seven of them, covered with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, topped off with a generous sprinkling of dried bonito.  It smelt and tasted amazing searing hot and straight out of the pan.  The outside was crispy, the insides soft with small pieces of diced octopus.  It left little else to be desired in a takoyaki :)
MerlinFan had the soft shelled crab.  She usually doesn't like the soft shelled kinds because of the crunch of the shells in some, but since she had been "deprived" of crabs for a while, she decided to try it.  It was really nice and crisp without the texture of the exoskeleton (doesn't that make it sound sooo much more appetizing) at all. 
For my main, I had the Tori Karaage Ramen which was served with deep fried chicken, egg and vegetables.
Tori Karaage Ramen
There were four generous pieces of chicken although two of them had batter that was slightly thick for my liking.  The seasoning was good, though.  I especially loved the gooey half egg, and the noodles were nice and bouncy too.  However, the flavour of the broth was not as deep and rich as the one at Ramen Ya.  I hereby stand by my opinion the first time I was at Ajisen Ramen at Bourke St years ago.

MerlinFan wanted to try their Paiku Ramen with apparently really tasty tenderloin ribs but pity for her it wasn't available today.  She was so disappointed, but after much deliberation she settled on the Miso Ramen.
Miso ramen
MerlinFan enjoyed the nicely seasoned miso broth, although she felt they could have been more generous with the chasyu.  Much to her shock, the two pieces of paper thin chasyu you see in the picture was all she got.  Most of the volume of the bowl was filled with a semi-circle shaped clump of bean sprouts upon which the two slices of chasyu sat upon like king and queen, giving it the illusion that it was full of chasyu beneath.  MerlinFan saluted their craftiness and ingenuity.  Oh well.  I suppose that's why they have the Miso Chasyu Ramen with extra chasyu.

Since Alan Harper is MerlinFan's idol (for his cheapness in case you don't watch Two and a Half Men), she joked that the craftiness and ingenuity also extended to the green tea cups.  The cup itself was quite thick and heavy, giving the illusion that there was more volume inside than there really was.  She finished her cup of green tea unexpectedly and said she was dying of thirst because the broth got saltier and saltier toward the end.

Anyway, the meal cost us an affordable $32.  Jokes aside, it actually is good value for your money if you want to try a few things or are super hungry.  I totally acknowledge it was my mistake, but it was a good mistake, because without it we wouldn't have tried the takoyaki and the soft shelled crabs.  And to be honest, I preferred the entrees over the ramen itself.  Staff were polite and service was quick, and MerlinFan and I enjoyed our meal.  We wouldn't mind going back to try their other dishes and ramen, perhaps share a value meal and order extra entrees.

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