Cheap eats: Ajisen Ramen and Passionflower.

Posted on August 11, 2011

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On yet another cold and rainy Melbourne night, Ajisen Ramen became my saviour. Providing a hit to awaken the senses and warm the body. This worldwide chain restaurant offers good quality Ramen at an affordable price, with a blend of entrée’s and rice dishes to complete the mix. The ramen here will not forge a lasting memory in your mind, however it will keep the pennies in your pocket and fill you up on a cold day.

Looking like your typical shopping centre ramen place, Ajisen has cute kitschy cartoon illustrations, very dim lighting, chocolate coloured furniture and token 90’s food and beverage photos lining the walls. The staff are very friendly, but stand at the counter glaring at diners, waiting for a job to do. There was definitely a problem with over staffing in my view. The tables are quite close together, so expect little privacy. I shamefully enjoyed listening to a date discussion on the table adjacent.

I ordered an iced glass of Umeshu Japanese plum wine and Mr M retired from drinking for the night. I ordered the spicy pork ramen and the deep-fried octopus tentacles with Japanese mayonnaise. Mr M ordered the Curry beef ramen and the deep-fried chicken with mayonnaise. The spicy ramen comes with the option of serving the spiced meat separately, to be used at your discretion, in order to minimise heat. At first I found this irritating, because it showed off the minimal serving size of meat. Once I began eating I realised the high level of chilli and would not have handled any more. Both of the Ramen’s came out before we had received our entrée’s, which was annoying. All of their ramen broths contain a combination of Tonkotsu/Senmiyu, an anti ageing remedy and umami flavour enhancer. Umami in a nutshell, is one of the five taste senses: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. It is the flavour in a dish that elevates it to the next level. Think mushrooms, truffles, vinegar, soy sauce. Chef’s try to create the fifth sense by cooking complicated broths and stocks to add to dishes. Unfortunately many chef’s still use artificial flavour enhancers.

Ajisen Ramen

The spicy pork ramen contained a shoya base with mixed vegetables, fungus and a tea soaked egg. It was also served with chunks of cabbage which added crunch and a warming flavour. I felt that the cabbage was used to disguise the lack of meat in the dish, but enjoyed it all the same. The broth had a balanced flavour but cooled very quickly, which changed my initial perception. The curry beef ramen contained a large size of thinly sliced medium rare beef pieces, an egg, vegetables and a curried broth. With the ability to choose the way the meat is cooked, it helps to avoid the dreaded “chewy meat syndrome”. The broth is lightly spiced, with al dente style wheat noodles, Flavourful, soulful and addictive.

Ajisen Ramen

The entrée’s arrived once we devoured half of our ramen. The enlarged “KFC” style chicken is served with Japanese Kupi mayonnaise. The chicken is a stoner’s dream, crunchy, spiced, laden with oil and a dollop of creamy mayonnaise. The chicken tastes like it has been marinated in lemon and ginger, as it is soft and has a bold flavour of pickled ginger. The perfect hang over cure.

The octopus tentacles are battered with panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried, served with the same Kupi mayonnaise as the chicken. While the chicken met my expectations, the octopus was overly chewy for what is usually quite a chewy part of the octopus. The seasoning was bland, and all that was left to enjoy was the fun of picking out the lesser chewy pieces. It was simply overcooked.

Ajisen Ramen

Ajisen Ramen

Overall the service was great, surroundings clean and funky, and the ramen great for the price. It won’t change your world but it’s worth a trip to reduce ageing and warm your soul. To complete the night, we wondered a couple of doors up to Passionflower dessert bar. Passionflower is a unique Asian ice-creamery in Melbourne, showcasing exotic tropical flavours such as durian, sticky rice, pandan and lychee. This place offers something exciting for dessert, rather than your usual boring flavours. There is the option to eat in, and choose from a range of sundaes, crepes and pancakes. Choosing the right flavours can be a hit or miss, I have tried a range of the flavours in the past and had the same outcome. This time the rice in the sticky rice ice cream was too firm, and tasted uncooked. Whilst the sesame flavour was perfectly balanced and the texture was creamy. If you’re williing to gamble with ice cream, this place is a fun option for those who like to live on the edge…..

Ajisen Ramen on UrbanspoonPassionflower on Urbanspoon

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