Adelaide doesn’t have a huge Japanese population compared to the big three (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) but we do have our share of half-decent sushi places (that are actually run by Japanese, which most aren’t). Our Chinese and S.E. Asian population on the other hand is very healthy and growing each year. I am happily able to get a really good won ton mein or Pho or Kuay Teow but we didn’t have a ramen restaurant at all – until now!! I was sooo excited when I heard that a real ramen restaurant arrived in Adelaide! In Japan, there are reportedly 16,000 ramen restaurants (in a country small enough to fit into the state of California!)
Ajisen ramen, a chain from Kumamoto, Japan has opened a small outlet on Leigh Street (the tiny lane off Hindley St). They are open everyday except Sundays and are open for lunch and dinner. Every time I pass by the place, it is packed! I had to make a reservation one lunch with two girlfriends so that we could guarantee ourselves a table and that’s rather unheard of in noodle joints! BusinessWeek Asia says that Ajisen (meaning a “thousand tastes”) is planning to open about 500 outlets in China alone!
Ajisen’s signature broth is the tonkotsu or pork broth with its slightly cloudy, white colour. Tonkotsu is very different from miso, shio, or shoyu ramen that you can get in Japan. It is my absolute favourite broth in a ramen and I was very excited! Because I was judging for authenticity, I decided on a traditional Chashu Men, or in Chinese, Char Siu Mein. Japanese style pork tenderloin sliced thin, floating on fresh noodles in pork broth ($10AU). Yum! My friend Katie also ordered the same but Jacqui ordered the ramen with Spare Ribs in the same broth. Both the pork tenderloin and the ribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the noodles were cooked just right, with a slight bite to them. There were about 20 different ramens to choose from including stir-fried yakisoba.
No ramen eating experience is complete without gyoza. Although our server forgot about it until after we had practically finished our ramen, the gyoza tasted homemade, was very generous in size with a lovely crisp skin and juicy pork filling.
Don’t forget to try some of the fried garlic topping sitting on every table to sprinkle on your ramen. Beware, it’s very strong! What I found interesting is that the bottle is written entirely in Japanese with NO translations anywhere but I suspect that people will eventually figure it out.
All in all, you get a lot of food for very little money and I would definitely recommend it (just don’t expect much from the service) – and not because it’s the sole ramen restaurant in Adelaide. It is definitely a great fast meal before seeing a movie. Service was rather forgetful and confused but I usually give up getting much service in this city so it wasn’t a huge shock to me. Definitely a tasty, inexpensive and warming meal – especially in winter!